News Column

Corner Office

Feb. 15, 2012

Jesus Chavarria--Editor and Publisher

About three weeks after the New Year launched, news announcing the economy had grown at a rate of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 created positive buzz about the economy. The announcement was notable because the economy's growth in the third quarter of 2011 had been 1.8 percent. Some media treated the news as just short of remarkable. Others did not quite share the excitement. The fact the unemployment rate did not decline surely lessened the positive impact of the quarterly development. But clearly the announcement showed the recovery was strengthening.

Unemployment remains the key to a full recovery in a society so dependent for growth on consumer spending. But there are so many other issues lying in the way of full recovery. Not to mention government spending and the deficit, both of which inhibit pump priming. But as Juan Solana, this medium's chief economist, makes clear in his economic forecast in this issue, the economic travails in Europe remain critical to the well-being of the U.S. economy. Issues surrounding sovereign debt and questions about the ability of some of the Eurozone states to service their debt could impact American financial institutions.

Notwithstanding macroeconomic trends, we find the Hispanic entrepreneurial segment continuing to gain ground as evidenced by the "corporate elite" branded story in this issue. This annual story describes the strengthening presence of Hispanic executives among C-level corporate management. Right alongside the growing number of senior-level executives we find a parallel twin, another group with an important story to tell -- the rising number of Hispanics in the corporate boardroom.

Read brief bios of the Corporate Elite 25.

Why is it important for Hispanics to reach the senior levels of corporate management? Certainly their ability to influence policy and corporate strategy figures large. Theoretically, they can influence policy on human capital development, on philanthropy and on support for educational causes, as well as influence direction of diversity supplier development. Getting to the senior level of corporate decision-making is quite challenging. In an e-mail interview, James H. Gallegos, vice president and general counsel, Alliant Energy, explained that "in order for an individual to break into the executive ranks, she/he must be driven and set a high mark for performance."

The careers of two of the most senior corporate officers in this year's selection of corporate officers clearly exemplify the path of breaking through. Both Armando J. Olivera, CEO of the Florida Power & Light Co., and Grace Lieblein, president and managing director of GM Brazil, started early at their respective companies. Mr. Olivera joined FLP in 1972, and Ms. Lieblein joined GM as a co-op student in 1978. From their respective starting points, they climbed persistently the ladder of achievement through the '80s and '90s. HispanicBusiness magazine has been following the career of Ms. Lieblein for the past 11 years when her engineering career caught our eye.

Read the profile of Grace Lieblein.

But Hispanic visibility in the corporate world grows, and with that growth will come more corporate board members, more higher-level corporate executives and perhaps the first Hispanic CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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