News Column

Spotlight on Elite Women

April 2007, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Derek Reveron

Over the next decade, retiring baby boomers should create an abundance of openings for ambitious Hispanic women and other minorities seeking high-profile management positions.
Over the next decade, retiring baby boomers should create an abundance of openings for ambitious Hispanic women and other minorities seeking high-profile management positions.

Over the next decade, retiring baby boomers should create an abundance of openings for ambitious Hispanic women and other minorities seeking high-profile management positions. Companies will have no choice – hire more minorities and women to fill slots vacated by boomers, or face a severe worker shortage, according to demographers and workplace consultants.

It's an opportunity that will allow other Hispanic women to follow in the footsteps of the members of this year's Hispanic Business Elite Women list and reach the heights of our five finalists for Woman of the Year.

"So many management and executive positions have been dominated by white males over 50. Because that segment will be retiring in significant numbers, it will create a vacuum that will pull in a lot of talented women and minorities," says Rick Miners, an executive search and outplacement consultant and co-author of the business best seller "Don't Retire, Rewire!" "There are already employee shortages in health care, defense, and the federal government, and utilities, energy, gas, and oil. And they will get worse."

The severity of the shortage will depend on how many boomers choose to continue working past retirement age. Many companies are adopting policies to help their best older employees continue to work at least part time. But the sheer size of the Boomer Nation makes a shortage inevitable, experts predict.

Baby boomers are the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest boomers began turning 60 in 2006. More than 40 percent of the U.S. work force will reach retirement age by 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). By 2012, the number of employees between the ages of 55 and 64 will increase 51 percent, while the number of workers 35 to 44 declines by 7 percent. Meanwhile, Hispanics account for 14 percent of the U.S. population and make up 40 percent of its labor force growth. Both figures will continue to rise dramatically, according to the bureau.

ALL SIGNS ARE GO

Other demographic trends bode well for Hispanic women getting their share of boomer vacancies: The percentage of Hispanic females in the workforce will increase from 55.3 percent in 2005 to 60.5 in 2020, according to BLS figures. Meanwhile, the bureau says the percentage for Hispanic men will decline from 80.1 percent to 76.9. The participation rates for white men will drop from 72.9 to 69.4, and decline slightly for white women from 59.5 to 58.8. Hispanic women who work full time earn 89 percent of what men earn each week, compared to 81 percent for women overall.

Such trends could help increase the number of Hispanic female candidates for top corporate executive slots.

That number has nowhere to go but up, says Virginia Clarke, a partner with the Spencer Stuart executive search firm and head of its diversity practice. "I can think of only a handful of [Hispanic] women who are in very senior executive roles at major companies," she says. "I'm having a hard time thinking of 25 or 30. It's consistent with what you see for African-American and Asian women. It's a very slow ascension to the top."

However, she adds, more prominent Hispanic women who own businesses and have top positions in academia and with community development organizations are being considered for corporate boards. Hispanic men account for most of the 70 Hispanics who hold the 100 board seats among Fortune 500 companies, according to the HispanTelligence® January 2007 Boardroom Elite report. There were 67 Hispanics on 96 seats in 2006, and 69 on 95 seats in 2005.

Hispanic women also lag in their representation in management ranks. About 27 percent of Hispanic women work in management, professional, and related occupations compared with 30 percent of African-American women, 39 percent of white women and 45 percent of Asian women, according to the BLS.

The baby boom talent drain could motivate more companies to recruit Hispanic women into management.

"It depends on the leadership," says Marisa Rivera-Albert, president of the Arlington, Virginia-based National Hispana Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to leadership development of Hispanic women. "If they see the benefit of having a diverse workforce, then they will recruit for a diverse workforce. If they don't see the value, then they won't."

CAN ATTITUDES CHANGE?

Executive recruiters and diversity consultants say it's not clear whether the worker shortage will help change attitudes that have hindered the advancement of Hispanic female managers to executive suites.

"Will the pressure be significant enough to remove stereotypical perceptions that interfere with proportional representation that mirrors the marketplace from the board and CEO on down? We still have a long way to go," says Audra Bohanon, vice-president of Diversity Practices for Novations Group, an organizational development and training consultancy.

Despite the coming shortage, moving beyond small numbers of Hispanic women in white male-dominated areas such as investment banking, engineering, and computer science will be difficult, Ms. Bohanon adds. Consumer product and packaged goods are likely to be among the industries that hire and promote Hispanics most aggressively because they have a fast-growing Hispanic consumer base, she observes. Some prominent Hispanic companies and organizational leaders say they are optimistic, although roadblocks remain.

"Some people call it the glass ceiling. Some people call it the marble ceiling. Whatever ceiling it is, it's still there," Ms. Rivera-Albert says. "However, when I look at the demographics, and I look at corporate America and the government sector, I see nothing but great opportunities for Latinas. It's a combination of Latinas being prepared, and employers being prepared for Latinas."

RE-ALIGNMENT TAKING PLACE

Another prominent Hispanic woman observes that discrimination still exists but is gradually receding.

"Certainly, Latin women of my generation faced real discrimination in a work population that was primarily white," says Maria Otero, president and CEO of Boston-based ACCION International, the world's leading micro-lending organization for poor, self-employed women and men. "Today you don't have as much of that. There is a realignment taking place in society, especially as we have more role models for Latinas."

Sofia Adrogue, a lawyer with Looper Reed & McGraw in Houston, says young Hispanic women set to fill baby boomer management shoes should not dwell on whether they face prejudice. She is the only female partner among 60 lawyers in her firm, and she is one of 900 Hispanic lawyers among 19,500 in her county, according to a recent study by local bar associations.

"If you want to survive and flourish, how much time do you want to waste wondering if you aren't [advancing in your profession] because you weren't born in this country or your last name is difficult to pronounce?" she says.

Hispanic women say that education is a key to increasing the number of them who will replace retiring boomer managers. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of Hispanic women entering college increased 22 percent, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac. Other increases were 16 percent for Hispanic men, 9.5 percent for white women and 16 percent for Hispanic men.

"I see more and more Latinas going to college, staying in college, and going into graduate school," says Victoria Rodriguez, vice-provost at the University of Texas at Austin. "That's important because employment, earning potential, and advancement are tied to education."

Adds Ms. Otero: "From the teaching, lecturing, and mentoring I do at university business and graduate schools, I see more Latin women acquiring advanced degrees. The pipeline is being filled by savvy Latin women who operate effectively in two cultures, which gives them a big advantage in a global economy."

BICULTURAL? BUY NOW!

According to a recent poll by Careerbuilder.com, half of employers recruit bilingual workers and those who speak English and Spanish are in the highest demand. Ten percent of employers say they recruit Hispanics more aggressively than other minorities, the poll revealed.

Many companies will begin recruiting Hispanic managers out of necessity, says Rep. Hilda Solis, (D-CA).

"Over the next five years Hispanic purchasing power will go up to $1.2 trillion. Companies have to have individuals who know how to attract and work with that market. Who better to do that than Latinas?" she says. "I see big corporations actively seeking Hispanic input. And I see an effort by Washington lobbyists to seek Latinas and Latinos."

Hispanics account for seven of the 87 women in Congress. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, (D-NY), chair of the Small Business Committee and the longest-serving Hispanic woman, is the only one who heads a committee. Representative Solis is the first Hispanic woman on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The numbers will improve as more Hispanic women enter politics, Representative Solis says. "We are seeing more Latinas elected to public office on the state and local levels, including school boards and water boards and other bodies," she says.

Experts point to one possible downside to the ascension of Hispanics: African Americans, formerly the nation's largest minority, may feel that they are being overlooked. "I think that will be an issue, but it will diminish because of the need for all minority workers," Mr. Miners says.

Adds Ms. Bohanon: "In the end, African Americans and Hispanics will both lose if that happens. Neither group will get where it wants to go, which is proportionate representation at all levels of organizations."



Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and Hispanicbusiness.com, Copyright (c) 2006 All Rights Reserved.


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