Industry leaders. Early adopters. Trendsetters. This year's list of influential Hispanics spotlights 100 extraordinary individuals chosen for their insight and drive, and, most importantly, for the examples they set in their communities. Not all of our selections are involved in strictly business, but a vast array of professions that make up our five diverse categories: Government, Corporate, Education, Arts & Entertainment, and Other Vistas.
Trying to narrow a list of 100 influential Hispanics for this year's issue was no easy task. In addition to receiving submissions, we selected people who we think are having a great year: contributing to their communities, achieving personal bests in their careers, and generally raising the bar for others in their fields.
All of our selections share one trait: their Hispanic nationalities. But our list is far from homogeneous. With representations from more than seven Hispanic nationalities, some a mixture of more than one, and geographical bases from Florida to Paris, our selections literally cover the globe.
And when our Influentials talk, people tend to listen. We wanted to find out what they thought about government and social issues, some of which they help shape and others that shape us all. In a confidential survey of the Influentials, some similarities appeared among survey responses, revealing a few clear indicators of where the upper echelon of Hispanic leaders is leaning. Our results appear in the following tables.
Defining the Influentials
With nearly 77 percent of our list achieving graduate-level degrees, education is a precursor to success within the Influential ranks. Incidentally, more than 85 percent of the selected individuals had a household income greater than $100,000 – worth noting since the range of careers is vast, from musicians and writers to scientists, politicians, and educators.
Diversity doesn't end there. Nearly a third, 31, of the 2006 Influentials are women.
Most interestingly, perhaps, is the language crossover of the list. The number of Influentials who speak both Spanish and English at home and work – 52.9 percent and 41.2 percent, respectively – rivals the number that speak English exclusively – 41.2 percent and 58.8 percent. Looking at national origins, 41 percent of those on the list identify themselves as Mexican, followed by 20 percent Cuban, 15 percent Puerto Rican, and the remaining a handful of Spanish, Dominican, and Central and South American.
Political leanings, often a dividing element, show more unanimity in our survey. Fifty percent of our respondents – and not all of the Influentials did participate in this survey – identified themselves as voting Democrat, 23.5 percent Republican, and 14.7 percent Independent. On specific political issues this resulted in a liberal bent overall. At the top of the list, President Bush's healthcare policies are viewed as unacceptable by nearly 80 percent of respondents.
Comparing our 2006 responses with our survey for the 2005 list, it is notable that favorable opinions on every issue category, with the exceptions of stem cell research and animal rights, our Influentials' have grown less happy with how the Bush administration is performing, at least based on our survey results. The decline is even more noticeable when we compare 2004 results. Agreement with the administration's policies on education fell from 42.5 percent to this year's 26.5 percent, on the economy from 40 percent to 26.5 percent, on foreign policy, 22.5 percent to 8.8 percent, and on immigration policy, 40 percent to 23.5 percent.
By the same token, 82 percent of respondents think that the Hispanic community's involvement in politics is inadequate, suggesting there is room to influence future elections and issues. Indeed, nearly 74 percent of respondents report they have participated in a political campaign and are likely to continue their involvement in the run-up to November elections.
Taking the Social Pulse
The word on everyone's lips is education: the most crucial aid to Hispanic advancement professionally and socially. In a survey question that allowed up to three responses, more than 82 percent answered that "access to education" should be the top priority of a national Hispanic agenda. This was closely followed by 61.8 percent choosing economic development, and 41.2 percent selecting both immigration policy and access to healthcare. Access to capital was chosen by 26.5 percent, and affirmative action by 14.7 percent.
Asked who would do the best job empowering the U.S. Hispanic community, educators got
a 35.3 percent vote of confidence. (Of course, 16 of our Influentials are educators.) Corporate America came in a close second with 32.4 percent of respondents believing that an improvement in corporate culture could bolster representation of Hispanics at the C-level.
The federal initiative most crucial to the future of the Hispanic community was immigration reform, selected by 38.2 percent of respondents. But the education issue came in second: 29.4 percent cited Pell grants and educational financial aid as a critical federal issue. Affirmative action received 5.9 percent of the vote, about a third of the response as Hispanic recruitment plans.
On a brighter note, nearly 90 percent of respondents reported that they have witnessed a significant growth of Hispanic-owned businesses in their communities, as initially reported by the 1997 Economic Census. According to our Influentials, this growth has been instrumental in not only increasing the number of companies (47.1 percent) but in boosting the affluence of Hispanics. But, they also cited that the biggest obstacle for the growth of Hispanic-owned businesses is access to capital (52.9 percent), which according to respondents tended to come primarily from family and friends (61.8 percent).
Winning an Uphill Battle
It's telling that almost 62 percent of our high achievers reported discrimination at some time, most often via promotions and hiring (29.4 percent) and at school/education (26.5 percent). Not surprisingly, two of their main concerns for the Hispanic community in general are combating discrimination in those areas.
Graciela Chichilnisky, one of our featured Hispanic Influentials, is a top UNESCO mathematics and engineering professor at Columbia University who is in a legal battle with the university over alleged discriminatory treatment of its female faculty. "I feel it is my privilege to be able to support the cause of overcoming discrimination against women, one of the most important global issues of our century," says Argentinean-born Ms. Chichilnisky, who filed her original complaint in 1991.
Our other Influentials also think that corporate America and the federal government could be doing more to help Hispanic workers participate in the U.S. economy. The number of respondents who see corporate diversity programs as effective are nearly tied with those that view them as "not very effective" (41.2 percent vs. 44.1 percent). Government diversity programs have a worse perception, with 58.8 percent responding "not very effective"compared to 23.5 percent who see them as 'effective.'
No one said they were "very effective."
While there are clear gains that have been made by the U.S. Hispanic community – in terms of market share, profile, and power – what our survey shows is that even among the top echelon, the feeling is that there is still a lot of work left to be done. Still, just a look at our 100 Hispanic Influentials shows that Hispanics are making strides across the board, infusing their heritage to create legacies for generations to come. From the Cuban jazz musician who travels the world, creating legions of fans and followers, and the 22-year-old Colombian design prodigy taking over New York Fashion Week, to the Mexican-American scientist responsible for making sure we conserve the earth's resources, our selections show the true range of Hispanic achievement. Enjoy the list.
Influential candidates are Hispanics with U.S. citizenship who have made significant contributions in society, preferably during the previous year for candidates outside of the corporate realm. Corporate Influentials are Hispanics who hold senior-level positions at large nationally recognized companies, where their influence and positions are such that they inspire other
Hispanics to achieve similar lofty positions.
Generally we look for individuals who hold high positions at prominent, well-known establishments, or for people who are prominent and well known themselves.
Nomination forms are available year-round at www.hispanicbusiness.com and are also obtained from press releases, public relations materials, journalists, and HBI staff. Candidates are narrowed down by the editorial staff based on the above-mentioned criteria.
Hispanic Business attempts to compile a list of current and emerging national leaders. Therefore, many distinguished Hispanics are not included even though they have appeared on previous lists.
HispanTelligence®, the research arm of Hispanic Business Inc., surveyed the selected 100 Influentials over a span of several weeks. The survey guaranteed the anonymity of responses, and the Influentials did not receive surveys until they were advised of their selection. The survey is intended to represent the aggregate opinion of those surveyed, and is not intended to represent the opinion of Hispanics in general.
>> Click Here to view the list of 2006 Hispanic Business 100 Influentials
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