March 2010

Cracking the C-Suite

Reaching the top echelons of fortune 1000 companies is proving a challenge for Hispanics

By Jeff Zbar
Vicente Marti


Tenuous. That one word could be used to define the state of Hispanics in the C-suite. Two years ago, Latinos occupied the Chief Executive’s suite in at least seven Fortune 1000 corporations. Today, the number may have grown to at least 11, but that still represents only about 1 percent of the CEOs among the biggest U.S. corporations.

As we report in this issue, the number of Hispanics in corporate boardrooms appears to be plateauing. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanics in the C-suites is on a roller coaster ride, increasing, then decreasing, only to increase again, but only marginally. As of 2006, some 22 Hispanics held positions as CEO, chair or president at Fortune 1000 companies. This was up from 16 in 2003, according to the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility (HACR). While this year’s figure of 11 CEOs reflects some progress over two years ago, it’s far lower than the 2006 and even the 2003 tally. Notables no longer in the executive suite include Alvaro G. de Molina (GMAC), William Perez (Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.) and Alain J.P. Belda (Alcoa).

HACR has long advocated for the inclusion of Hispanics in corporate America at a level commensurate with the U.S. Hispanic community’s economic contributions.

Placement in the executive suite and corporate boardrooms fosters greater “social capital networks” among Hispanics, says Anita Perez Ferguson, a doctoral researcher on corporate boardroom diversity at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. Boards and C-suites in American corporations tend to lack diversity; less than 5 percent of all executive posts are held by minorities, says Ana Valdez, HACR’s Executive Director.

Inclusion across the executive ranks makes for a smarter, more agile company, says J. Mario Molina, chairman and CEO of Molina Healthcare. The Fortune 1000 company’s executive ranks have several Hispanics; its board has two Hispanics and two women. “When I look around my own company, I think it makes us a stronger company,” he says. “America’s becoming an increasingly diverse nation. It seems to me that it’s good business.”

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the heavy hitters in the corporate executive scene.

Antonio M. Perez | Chairman,President and CEO, Eastman Kodak

Antonio M. Perez has presided over the venerable Eastman Kodak at a time when its very existence was in jeopardy. Where once the company’s film-based business could have been its downfall, today Kodak reportedly is the leading seller of digital cameras in the U.S. and third in the world. Before joining Kodak in April 2003, Perez was president and CEO of Gemplus International. Previously, he spent 25 years at Hewlett-Packard, where he served as president of HP’s consumer business, and president/CEO of HP’s inkjet imaging business. At Kodak he has moved strongly into consumer inkjet printers, sensors for digital cameras and mobile phones, and solutions for retail, commercial and workflow applications—generating 2008 revenues of $6 billion. A Spanish native, Perez studied marketing, business and electronic engineering in both Spain and France.

Cristóbal I. Conde | President and CEO, SunGard Data Systems

Cristóbal I. Conde is a progressive thinker in the corporate workplace. A believer in a flattened, collaborative environment, he empowers his people and uses technology, but encourages open discourse, free thinking and the well-written document. Conde arrived at SunGard in 1987 after the company acquired Devon Systems International Inc., whose tech solutions served the interest rate and currency derivatives markets. In 1990, Conde launched the SunGard’s Trading Systems division, which today has four groups, 22 operating units and more than 2,000 employees. Beyond SunGard, Conde is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Conde was born in Chile, is a U.S. citizen, and earned his B.S. degree in Astronomy and Physics from Yale University.

Manuel Medina-Mora | Chief Executive Officer, Citi Consumer Banking for the Americas

Manuel Medina-Mora took over Citi’s core consumer banking business just this January. He is also responsible for working with regional directors globally to oversee Citi’s consumer strategy worldwide. Medina-Mora, a native of Mexico, previously led the embattled company’s banking operations in Latin America, where he earned the trust of Vikram Pandit, the company’s top executive. In the U.S., Medina-Mora will take over 1,000 branches serving American and Canadian consumers, with over $139 billion in deposits and $34 billion under management.

Ralph de la Vega | President and CEO, AT&T Mobility & Consumer Markets

Ralph de la Vega has made his career in technology and telecommunications. It was as the COO of the former Cingular Wireless that de la Vega oversaw the merger between the company and AT&T. With that success, he was named in 2004 Executive of the Year by the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. De la Vega controls all consumer marketing, sales, content, customer care and operations for wireless and wireline services. That makes him a key player in developing the very successful business partnership between AT&T and Apple—from the iPhone to the new iPad tablet. The Cuban native earned his degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University after fleeing the island to Miami as a child without his parents or siblings.

Paul J. Díaz | President and CEO, Kindred Healthcare Inc.

An attorney and accountant, Paul J. Díaz oversees one of the country’s largest providers of long-term healthcare services. Previously he held a variety of executive posts, including Executive vice president / COO with Mariner Health, and president of its Inpatient Division. Before Mariner Health, he was CEO, CFO and General Counsel of Allegis Health Services. Diaz is or has served on the boards of DaVita Inc., Kindred Healthcare, PharMerica Corporation, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Diaz is a graduate of the Kogod College of Business Administration at American University and received his Law degree from Georgetown University.

Fernando Aguirre | Chairman, President & CEO, Chiquita Brands International, Inc.

Richard L. Carrión | Chairman & CEO, Popular, Inc.

Linda A. Lang | Chairman & CEO, Jack in the Box Inc.

Gerardo I. (Gerry) Lopez | CEO and Director, AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.

Antonio Lucio | Chief Marketing Officer, Visa Inc.

J. Mario Molina | Chairman, President & CEO, Molina Healthcare, Inc.

Manuel J. Perez de la Mesa | President & CEO, PoolCorp

Josue (Joe) Robles, Jr. | President and CEO, United Services Automobile Association

Gabriel Tirador | President, CEO and Director, Mercury General Corporation

Alberto J. Verme | Chief Executive Officer, Citi Europe, Middle East, and Africa

HACR contributed to this list.


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