Maria Salinas didn’t have the chance to look up to a female, let alone a Latina, leader of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. She was the first.
Hired in 2018 as president and CEO of the 130-year old L.A. Area Chamber, she is part of a larger movement of women leading organizations fundamental to California’s future. Salinas sees an opportunity for Cal Poly Pomona graduates to rise to the occasion during these tumultuous times that also present opportunities to address issues of equity and social justice.
“My 20-year-old self didn’t have many examples in the business world to look up to,” Salinas said. “Students are changemakers, thought leaders, global citizens, that will inspire a movement of change. I hope the new graduates will let the values instilled in them at Cal Poly Pomona guide them to step out front, to lean in to our most pressing problems, and to make this moment count.”
In recognition of Salinas’ extraordinary accomplishments as a business executive, entrepreneur and community leader, she will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Cal Poly Pomona.
Salinas, who currently serves alongside University President Soraya M. Coley on the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Work, readily acknowledges the vulnerabilities exposed by the recent pandemic, including stress on healthcare and challenges to educational systems. These predicaments have accelerated change that is resulting in progress.
“Distance learning, remote work, telehealth – all are emerging trends because of the pandemic,” Salinas said. “How do we ensure that distance learning is just and equitable? How do we make sure that no student is left behind? These are the tough questions that need to be addressed so that we can build a robust workforce.”
Salinas plays a vital role in guiding the Los Angeles area workforce at the Chamber, representing more than 1,400-member companies and serving the interests of more than 235,000 businesses across the region.
Prior to the Chamber, Salinas founded Salinas Consulting, a finance and accounting consultancy firm. Previously, she held financial leadership roles with the Walt Disney Company after beginning her career with the firms of Ernst & Young and Kenneth Leventhal & Company.
Salinas also represents the LA business community in state-wide policy initiatives with the Coalition of Regional Economic Leaders and is a member of the Board of Directors of Mobility 21, a regional transportation effort.