News Column

Pioneers in a Wider World

April 2003, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

CLICK HERE to view the 2003 Elite Hispanic Women

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the female Hispanic labor force will grow from 5.7 million in 1998 to about 8.5 million in 2008 – an increase of 48 percent. That represents the greatest growth among all female ethnic groups.

But Hispanic women have expanded their presence beyond the workplace, as shown by this year's directory of 80 Elite Hispanic Women. Since 2001, Hispanic Business has documented the emergent Hispanic female leadership cadre in business (April 2001 issue), later adding education and government (April 2002 issue).

This year, the Elite Women directory has grown to comprise eight categories. Corporate America still contributes the largest share (30 women), followed by government careerists (10) and education professionals (10). The categories of elected officials (7), nonprofit executives (4), sports and entertainment figures (9), and women of the military (3) make their debut on this year's list. The final category, "rising stars," highlights seven women who embody the future potential of Hispanic female leadership.

For the first time this year, the magazine's editors selected one Elite Woman, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, for the title of Hispanic Business Woman of the Year (see "Making the Case for Small Business").

The new categories and recognition reflect the widening influence and reach of Hispanic women in the U.S. economy and society. These women have achieved success despite lingering discrimination and historical barriers based on both ethnicity and gender. The Elite Women themselves report suffering more discrimination for being female (45 percent) than for being Hispanic (31 percent). The good news is that these are the lowest levels for gender bias reported in the three years Hispanic Business has published the women's list. The bad news is that ethnic obstacles remain in the same response range (24 to 32 percent) over the same period.

"Don't use your ethnicity as a crutch, but rather use it as a differentiating factor that is an innate advantage in business," advises Claudia S. Volpi, co-founder of NYIT Design in New York City. Indeed, most Elite Women say that ethnicity has played a role in their professional life – a solid 72 percent report that diversity programs have helped their careers.

A profile of the typical Elite Woman, based on self-provided data, shows a woman in her 40s or 50s (three-fourths of the list fall in that age range) with a graduate degree (78 percent). Nearly half the women on the list are of Mexican-American descent (45 percent) and have been with their current employers for more than 10 years (48 percent). Brief biographies of the Elite Women, together with statistical information on the entire directory, appear on the following pages.

Research for the Hispanic Business 80 Elite Hispanic Women list was conducted by Research Supervisor J. Tabin Cosio and Research Assistants Cynthia Marquez and Mike Caplinger under the direction of Business Economist Juan Solana.

Methodology: Elite Hispanic Women
Selection of the 80 Elite Hispanic Women begins as an open process when Hispanic Business receives nominations from readers, Web-site visitors, contributing editors and writers, magazine staff, and nominees themselves. To qualify, individuals must be U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin. Final selection is performed by a panel of editors using a comprehensive set of criteria, including company size, professional responsibilities, position, and links to the Hispanic community. Members of the Elite Women list should promote the advancement or favorable perception of the Hispanic community.

Because of the increasing number of influential Hispanic women, Hispanic Business attempts to compile a list that recognizes those who have exerted recent, national impact. For the Rising Star category, Hispanic Business identifies women under the age of 35 who have the potential to rise to the highest echelon of influence.

Hispanic Business is currently in the process of collecting nominees for the 2004 directory of Elite Hispanic Women. Please submit recommendations to the Research Department, Hispanic Business Inc., 425 Pine Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. Nominations also may be e-mailed to or submitted online at


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