With the historic election of the country's first African-American president, in some respects 2009 could be considered a breakthrough, shining year for diversity.
But beyond the epic sea change inside the White House, diversity at America's largest, most successful companies still falls short of reflecting the face of American culture and society as a whole.
"The challenges are the limited number of opportunities created for Latinos," said Manuel Espinoza, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. "Corporate America needs to do a better job of identifying potential Hispanic leaders, developing them and then creating opportunities at the highest levels in their companies."
The book is hardly closed, however, on the story of Hispanic diversity in corporate America. In fact, a look at Hispanic Business Media's 2009 Corporate Elite suggests that Hispanic innovators, talented minds, and entrepreneurs are slowly but surely transforming the face of executive management at America's companies.
This year's list of 25 Corporate Elite is comprised of successful executives who shine in the areas of technology, finance, banking, fashion, health care, public utilities, retail, even the struggling auto industry. They have managed to rise to the top and maintain their positions, despite the tumultuous financial climate of 2008, in which companies shed employees to stay afloat and diversity often took the brunt of the downsizing.
While 2009 will present severe challenges for everyone, many, including the Corporate Elite, will seize the moment as an opportunity.
While the Corporate Elite list focuses on Fortune 500 companies, there are more than 400 Hispanics at all companies -- big and small -- who serve in executive positions.
"Although Hispanics are making inroads in certain areas, they are still far behind in reaching senior positions at Fortune 500 companies," Mr. Espinoza said. "For example, if you look at the board of directors of these companies, you see a small number of Hispanics."
In addition to the Corporate Elite, Hispanic Business Media presents a list of 80 Hispanic board members who sit on the boards of Fortune 500 companies. The 2009 list comprises 80 Hispanics filling 110 board seats. The total is barely up this year from 2008, when 79 Hispanics, filling 100 boardroom seats, made the list. We have highlighted 40 for the magazine, but the complete list can be found here.
In our lead story, Hispanic Business Media talks with several members of the Corporate Elite about their rise to power and their plans to contend with the faltering economy in 2009.
Despite the challenges, opportunities exist for those who wish to climb the ranks.
"We are years away from seeing Hispanics in senior positions reflecting the makeup of the society as a whole," Mr. Espinoza said. "However, the growth of the Hispanics overall, the impact of . . . and the increase on the importance of having a diverse workforce even at the highest levels will allow the gap to decrease."
Click here for a detailed list of the 2009 Corporate Elite
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