News Column

Corporate America in Need of Educated Hispanics

January/February 2001

By Jonathan J. Higuera

Economic growth in the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic consumer markets has finally “trickled up” to the executive suite. Corporations are hiring Hispanic managers in record numbers, with the hottest career tracks in human resources and marketing.

“Corporate America is looking for educated Latinos, preferably with MBAs,” says Ernesto Fresquez, CEO of Fresquez & Associates, an executive search firm based in Oakland, California, that specializes in the Hispanic sector. “They want good communication skills in writing, speaking, and thinking. Usually English is the dominant language, but knowledge of Spanish is a plus.”

Numbers from the 2001 HISPANIC BUSINESS Corporate Elite directory confirm those trends. This year’s list comprises 615 names, 169 more than last year’s. More than 38 percent of the elite hold advanced college degrees.

Mr. Fresquez stresses that when his clients hire Hispanics, they do so with an eye on the bottom line. “We’re way beyond the affirmative action mode,” he says. “[Diversity] is an economic choice, not a mandated choice.”

For multinational corporations with an interest in Latin America, the choice seems a no-brainer. “We’re seeking Latinos with hands-on regional experience,” says Lisa Torres, CEO of Torres & Associates, an executive recruiting firm in Coral Gables, Florida, that specializes in foreign assignments. “They need to not only speak the language but understand the culture and how to do business in the region. The hotbeds are Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.”

According to Ms. Torres, the bottom-line orientation determines the opportunities available for her to place people. “The higher you go, the harder it is. For the very senior level, [corporations] are looking for people with profit-and-loss responsibility and very strong supervisory backgrounds. They want people who have managed large teams within a complex organization,” she says. Telecommunications, high-tech, and financial services seek talented Hispanics most actively, she notes. “As a recruiter, I hope our community can continue to develop a pipeline of people who can move into these positions. ... I still don’t see a lot of our folks in the technology areas.”

Today’s corporate headhunters want Hispanics eager to make a splash in the marketplace. David Gomez, CEO of Chicago-based search firm David Gomez & Associates, says openings for Hispanics occur most commonly in human resources, followed by marketing/brand management – basically, for those with expertise in the labor market and the consumer market. “Human resources is in big demand because it’s such a visible position for the company,” Mr. Gomez explains. “Everybody in the company knows who the human resources representative is.”

In addition to growth opportunities overseas, corporations want to bolster their domestic Hispanic work force to serve the growing market share represented by U.S. Hispanics. “When they start looking for new markets, it’s right under their nose,” says Mr. Gomez. “Add to that the fact that in the next 10 years, three out five of their workers could be Hispanic.”

Despite a market hungry for Hispanic MBAs, they remain something of a specialty item. “Most Fortune 500 companies have Hispanics in top-level positions – maybe not the top 10, but perhaps in the top 100,” says Fletch Grundmann, research director at the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. “But they don’t like to talk about their executives. They are afraid of being cherry-picked by other firms.”

Mr. Gomez reports that most international recruiting firms, such as Korn/Ferry International or Heidrick & Struggles, pay scant attention to cultivating a pool of Hispanic job candidates. “The big search firms don’t go to Hispanic conventions. They don’t see it as a product line,” he says.

In contrast, Mr. Gomez has logged thousands of miles attending Hispanic conventions, conferences, and meetings, and that has resulted in a database with tens of thousands of resumes on file, mostly from Hispanic job seekers. “If Hispanics out there have a solid background in human resources, marketing, finance, or technology, and they pound hard enough, they can find a higher-paying position,” Mr. Gomez confirms. “But the biggest thing is they have to be mobile. They may have to move to Minnesota.”

In addition to the mobility issue, he suggests that Hispanics make themselves as technologically capable as possible. Ms. Torres concurs. “The onus is on us to continue our education and acquire a specific certification to add to our marketability,” she says. For example, workers could get certified in project management to broaden their appeal. Ms. Torres also observes that in certain situations, computer skills may trump mobility. “More and more companies are working with virtual offices,” she says. “A division director may be based in Miami, but have reports in Atlanta, Buenos Aires, and Puerto Rico.”

Even in the executive search business, technology has changed the rules (see sidebar, “Electronic Headhunting”). Mr. Fresquez keeps a company site at, Ms. Torres runs, Mr. Gomez owns, and Hispanic Business Inc., parent company of this magazine, has “Technology hasn’t even begun to make the changes it will make,” Mr. Gomez predicts. “Hispanics need to add that to their repertoire. It doesn’t matter if you’re in human resources or marketing, it will give you the tools to get the information you need.”

Jonathan J. Higuera is a business writer for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.

Diversity with Discrimination
A Korn-Ferry study points up the value of formal mentor programs, but finds that many minorities still face exclusion.

A study of senior-level minority executives at major corporations tells a tale of successful mentorship programs as well as the lingering effects of discrimination. Conducted by recruitment firm Korn/Ferry, the study titled “Diversity in the Executive Suite: Creating Successful Career Paths and Strategies” found that among Hispanics, the top fields were advanced technology, financial services, apparel/retail, and banking.

The average survey respondent had worked at his or her company for 11.8 years and held the same position about 3.7 years. In terms of salary, Hispanics were more likely to have a base salary between $100,000 and $199,000 than were Asians or African Americans, who more often had higher salaries.

But the 27 percent of Hispanic males who reported they had a primary formal mentor at their company enjoyed significantly faster salary and total compensation growth than Hispanic males without a primary formal mentor.

At the same time, 59 percent of respondents had observed or experienced double standards in the workplace, and 55 percent cited harsh or unfair treatment of minorities by Anglos. Moreover, 40 percent reported that they had been denied a promotion they thought they deserved – and suspected it was because of their race or cultural background. Thirty-seven percent said they had held back thoughts about organizational roadblocks because they feared losing their job or future career opportunities. About a fifth said office support staff tended to give their work lower priority.

Electronic Headhunting

Web sites cater to upwardly mobile managers.

Many of today’s senior managers started out flipping through help-wanted ads in the newspaper to find their first job. Now the game has moved online, with online job boards the weapon of choice. Following is a selective rundown of some of the biggest sites for Hispanic job-seekers. ( This site features multiethnic recruitment, not just for Hispanics. Owned by the parent company of HISPANIC BUSINESS, runs the gamut from entry-level to senior positions at major employers.

Fresquez & Associates ( Here job candidates find openings and employers find job candidates. “It’s the best marketing I’ve ever done,” says Ernesto Fresquez, CEO search firm Fresquez & Associates, which runs the site. “You have to reflect the candidate’s level of sophistication. If you’re a technical person, you’re not looking through the papers for your next job.”

iHispano ( Resumes are matched to job openings. The site also contains information on the hiring process and how to conduct a job search. The traditional executive search firm David Gomez & Associates runs iHispano. ( A large database of jobs for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking professionals is maintained. has one of the largest databases of Latin American opportunities on the Web, but serious job-seekers have to pay a membership fee to access the listings.

Lisa Torres & Associates ( In addition to job listings, includes career planning advice, salary surveys, and interviewing tips. “Folks are out there surfing the Net, so you need to have a presence,” says CEO Lisa Torres.

Source: Hispanic Business magazine

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