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.”
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