With the economy in a tailspin, news of financial calamity is everywhere.
Major banks are failing, car manufacturers are floundering and real-estate values are tumbling. Lost in the blizzard of doom-and-gloom tales are the stories of a group of people who, through hard work, ingenuity and perseverance, continue a quiet and steady march towards progress.
Such is the story of Hispanic women in America.
Every April, in celebration of the sometimes gravity-defying strides made by Hispanic women, HispanicBusiness.com recognizes the significant achievements and advancements made by Hispanic women in America.
This year, continuing a tradition that began in 2003, Hispanic Business magazine surveyed a group of Elite Women identified by HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business Media.
This year's winner, Frances Garcia, the Inspector General of the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office, is a prime example of a woman who, by dint of determination, intelligence and grit, refused to let the weight of her disadvantages stop her from reaching the summit.
A recreational bungee jumper and rock climber, the 67-year-old certified public accountant has never been one to let long odds or the occasional scrape get in the way of success.
Garcia is part of a generation that helped blaze a trail for today's upwardly mobile Hispanic women.
As the economic storm rages, the number of Hispanic women entering the American workforce, graduating high school and attending college continues its incremental, upward climb.
Also, with each passing year -- though the progress is slow -- more and more Hispanic women are assuming positions of power and leadership.
Between 2000 and 2007, the rate of working Hispanic women who hold management or professional jobs rose steadily from 20 percent to 23 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Perhaps nowhere is this trend illustrated so vividly as the recent Senate confirmation of the nation's first-ever Hispanic Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis.
As for Ms. Garcia, she began working at age 14, taking jobs as a waitress and picking sugar beets in the fields.
After becoming the first in her family to graduate high school, she attended Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, where she earned a degree in business administration. Now, as inspector general, she oversees the audits and investigations of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which keeps tabs on how Congress is spending taxpayer dollars. Put another way, she is the watchdog of a watchdog.
Her advice: value others.
"You cannot do it alone," she said. "It sounds so much better to say 'we' instead of 'I.' People get tired of hearing 'I, I.'"
Ms. Garcia's competition for this year's award was fierce. Other finalists included the vice president of the National Education Association, the founder and CEO of a top-performing car dealership in Texas, the head legal counsel of the corporate giant Dupont and a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Marion Luna Brem, the CEO and founder of the Love Chrysler dealership in Corpus Christi, faced not only the hurdle of being a Hispanic woman trying to break into a white man's industry, but also the terror of being diagnosed with cancer. She conquered it, defying a grim prognosis that gave her no more than five years to live. At the time, she was a single mom with no health insurance. Now, she's a millionaire.
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