Businesswomen: Changing the Face of Business
By Richard-Abraham Rugnao
Hispanic businesswomen are defying their conventional business roles
and creating business ventures customarily established by their male
counterparts. Hispanic women-owned firms are operating automotive
manufacturing warehouses, overseeing construction sites, refurbishing
historical monuments, and are heads of multi-million dollar companies.
More notably, these businesswomen are increasing in numbers and status
across the country.
Women entrepreneurs are the fastest-growing segment of the small
business economy, starting new businesses at roughly twice the rate of
men, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). While women
currently own less than 36 percent of all US firms, the figure is
expected to rise to 40 percent by the end of the decade.
National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO) reported in a June
1997 study that "Between 1987 and 1996, the number of minority
women-owned firms increased by 153 percent, employment grew by 276
percent, and revenues rose by 318 percent. During this nine-year period,
the number of Hispanic women-owned firms more than tripled 206 percent,
while the number of Asian and African-American women-owned firms
increased 138 percent and 135 percent respectively.
Not surprised by the recent statistics, Ronald E. Montoya,
chairman of the board for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
(USHCC), states, "Our organization has closely monitored the steady
growth of Hispanic women entrepreneurs over the past ten years. We have
witnessed how this business sector has changed the face of the small
business community, increasing in numbers and influence across the
Nowhere are Hispanic women entrepreneurs making a stronger impact
than in the USHCC boardroom. Having recently increased the number of
Hispanic women on its board, the latest additions to the USHCC board
represent some of today's leading industries, operating in diverse
regions of the US.
As a young widow with four children to support, Liliam Lujan
Hickey, one of the USHCC's new board members, soon learned the meaning
of survival. From receiving government assistance, to now owning two
businesses based in Las Vegas, Nevada, Genesis International and Lujan
Development, Lujan-Hickey is committed to sharing her success with other
Hispanic businesswomen. "I have always known how to make money but did
not know how to run a business," claims Lujan-Hickey. "I enrolled myself
in a business seminar and learned how develop a business plan, work
with budgets, and how to effectively market and operate my own
Most of the USHCC's women board members share the same sentiment
as Lujan-Hickey-educate yourself before starting your own business.
Beatriz Valadez-Ferreira, a Las Cruces, New Mexico attorney, began her
practice one year after graduating from law school. A 17-year business
veteran, Valadez-Ferreira recognized early on that in order for her
business to succeed, she had to be visible. "I opened my law office on
the main street of Las Cruces. I knew that if my business was going to
make it, I had to be on the same block with the other established
businesses," claims Valadez-Ferreira.
Stressing the importance of preparation, Michelle Uria, president of ORO
Financial, a New Orleans based financial consulting firm, says that
"women have the intuitive insight of being successful entrepreneurs, but
many times fail because they have not developed a detailed strategic
Despite their growth in numbers, women-owned businesses continue
to face special challenges. Regardless of ethnicity, women entrepreneurs
are often stereotyped based solely on their gender. "In the beginning
of my career and even sometimes today, prospective clients will assume
that my husband is the president of my company," states Eneida Uehlin,
president of DANA Graphics, a Cincinnati based design company. However,
the problem often occurs when women stereotype themselves, maintains
Leticia Herrera, president of ECI, a full service maintenance company
based in Chicago. "Women should no longer be viewed as special entities
of business. We are entrepreneurs, plain and simple. However, many times
women stereotype into believing that because of their gender they can
not compete, provide quality services, or become successful business
Regardless of the challenges and pitfalls, women-owned businesses
continue to increase in numbers, particularly Hispanic women-owned
businesses. By the end of 1996 there were 382,400 Hispanic women-owned
businesses in the U.S., employing 671,200 people and generating $67.3
billion in sales, according to the NFWBO. The NFWBO further reports that
firms owned by Hispanic women represent five percent of all women-owned
firms in the US. Moreover, this business sector contributes four
percent of the total employment of women-owned firms and three percent
of the revenues.
The current trend in Hispanic business, maintains Montoya, is
Hispanic women entering non-traditional business ventures. The NFWBO
reports that the greatest growth in the number of Hispanic women-owned
firms has been in non-traditional sectors. Between 1987 and 1996, the
number of Hispanic women-owned firms has grown 428 percent in
construction, 389 percent in agriculture, and 338 percent in wholesale
trade. Starting her construction and steel fabricator company with only
$500, Anna Cablik is one of few Hispanic women in the construction/
steel business. "Working in a male dominated industry has made me come
to the plate and prove myself and the value of my company. I consider
myself one of many women pioneers in this business, and hope to create
economic opportunities for other Latinas interested in entering this
field," claims Cablik.
Aside from owning businesses, Hispanic women are outpacing
Hispanic men in the managerial and professional sectors of the U.S.
labor work force. According to a 1994 Census report, nearly 16 percent
of Hispanic women are in managerial and professional positions, compared
to 11 percent of Hispanic men.
"I am encouraged by our business community's growth and success,
and how Hispanics have diversified nearly every business sector,"
maintains Montoya. "I am especially encouraged by the growth of Hispanic
businesswomen and vast contribution that they make in the USHCC board
room, our community, and, more importantly, to the U.S. economy."
Richard-Abraham Rugnao is the director of public relations for the
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). The USHCC is the
leading minority business association in the country, representing over
200 Hispanic Chambers of Commerce nationwide. For more information
regarding the growth of the Hispanic business community, please contact
the USHCC at (202) 842-1212.
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