The clock ticks 7:00 a.m. Patricia Pineda, the highest ranking Latino at Toyota, is already in her office answering emails and getting ready for the day’s meetings—such is the life in corporate America.
Pineda serves as group vice president of Hispanic business strategy for Toyota North America and leads Toyota’s Hispanic Business Strategy Group, which focuses on strengthening Toyota’s ties to the Latino/Hispanic community.
Pineda is not new to her high position in the corporate arena. “I was one of the first Latino general counsels in corporate America,” she tells me. Before joining Toyota North America in 2004 as general counsel, she spent 20 years at New United Motors Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), the corporate joint venture between Toyota Motor Corporation and General Motors Corporation, where she served as vice president of human resources, in government and legal affairs and as corporate secretary.
On Her Mexican Roots
An inspiration to many Latinas and women that come behind her, Pineda is a second generation Mexican-American. Her father was born in Phoenix, Arizona to undocumented Mexican immigrants. Her grandfather died when her father was a little boy and her grandmother took the family to Mexico during the Repatriation in the 1930s, when more than a million people of Mexican descent were sent back to Mexico as a result of the jobs shortage of the Great Depression. Pineda’s mother was born in Mexico but raised in California from infancy. In 1942, her father returned to the U.S., served in WW II and married Pineda’s mother. “I was raised in Santa Paula, California, a predominantly Latino community that was known as the “Citrus Capital of the World” for its extensive orange and lemon groves. My father was a heavy equipment operator and worked hard to provide for our family. My mother was a hair stylist who became a stay-at-home mother. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college.”
Yet, Pineda grew up in a house where education was a priority. “My parents always taught me that education would be the foundation for a better future, and they fully supported me in all educational endeavors.” She said. “I was always a good student so my parents had high expectations for me and encouraged me to strive for my dreams.” Both parents were involved in school activities, including the PTA, and her father served on the school board of trustees. “I was very lucky to have my parents’ support. I grew up in an environment that was very family and church oriented. I always felt nurtured and loved. For me, family and spirituality are an integral part of my Latino heritage and I am very proud of my roots.”
Early Goals Led to Lifelong Success
Perhaps because of her parent’s encouragement, Pineda’s career goals were defined at an early age. She wanted to become a lawyer and she became one. She became a Latina executive in an industry that had very few women holding senior positions at the time she joined. Although she has served as a lawyer for Toyota for most of her 30-year career, she has also worked in other areas of the company from human resources to corporate communications to government affairs and philanthropy to her current role at the helm of the Hispanic Business Strategy Group.
“It was been a wonderful career journey, ”Pineda says. “I have stayed focused and it paid off brilliantly.”