Review the HispanicBusiness Diversity Stock Index (HBDSI) in our April issue, and you see a snapshot of the state of the economy, which Warren Buffet likened on March 9 to an economic Pearl Harbor.
A March unemployment report faithfully reflected continuing depressed stock markets pointing in turn to a deepening market malaise. Demand remained weak as unemployment continued rising. During February, the HBDSI finished down 17.27 percent through March 2, compared with the Dow Jones Industrials (-25.14 percent) and S&P 500 (-24.79 percent), which fared even worse during the same period.
While bleak may describe the economic condition of the nation, courageous and can-do is a more apt description of the attitude of this year's 25 outstanding Hispanic women, who include four finalists and our Woman of the Year award winner, our cover story. They didn't rise to positions of leadership and responsibility by shrinking from adversity. Grit and smarts are the qualities that best define their ascendancy. As the federal government has assumed center stage in fighting the most lethal economic downturn since the Great Depression, Frances Garcia, Inspector General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), this year's winner of HispanicBusiness Magazine's Woman of the Year award, is literally in the eye of the perfect storm. With trillions of dollars pouring into the U.S. economy to turn around the world's largest economy, she oversees the audits and investigations of the GAO, which keeps tabs on how Congress is spending taxpayers' dollars.
"GAO is the watchdog for Congress, and I am the watchdog for the watchdog," she told HispanicBusiness. She has been Inspector General of the GAO since l996, when she was appointed to be its first IG.
Other finalists include: Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association; Marion Luna Brem, CEO and founder of the Love Chrysler automobile dealership in Corpus Christi, Texas; Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; and Ramona Romero, Corporate Counsel for Logistics and Energy at DuPont.
To get perspective on the odds they've had to overcome, consider the following: Between l997 and 2007, the percentage of Hispanic women with four or more years of college behind them increased from 10 percent to nearly 14 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2007 percentage for black women was 19, and for all women it was 28. The pendulum of advancement moves slowly; it's been largely prodded by affirmative action legislation and affirmative policies of college admissions.
Ms. Eskelsen, another WOY finalist, went to college and obtained a teaching credential at the urging of a teacher. Graduating cum laude from the University of Utah, in less than 10 years she was named the state's teacher of the year. Today she's vice president at the National Education Association.
That's what the nation needs today, what all of the 25 Woman of the Year candidates bring to the table: courage, self-reliance and amazing confidence.
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