Latina Business Leaders Taking Their Place at Corporate Table

Apr 6, 2014
10:33 AM

Latinas are one of the fastest growing and most dynamic demographic within the business community. These leaders are creating innovative tools, strategies and business models that are benefiting large and small businesses throughout the United States.

According to the 2013 Women-Owned Business report, Latinas own nearly one million businesses in the United States, they employ almost 500,000 people and their businesses have generated over $65.5 billion in sales.  While they remain severely under-represented on corporate boards and in executive positions within corporations, established and emerging Latina business leaders are doing their part to change this narrative for the benefit of aspiring Latina business professionals.

logo2.jpg applauds these women for breaking down barriers to ensure that there is room for Latina business leaders at the corporate table and in C-suites around the globe. Below is a list of some of these amazing business leaders:

Nina G. Vaca was seemingly bred to be one of the most successful business leaders in the United States. She is the Founder, Chairman, & CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources, a company that provides IT services to Fortune 500 companies. Vaca, an immigrant from Ecuador, learned her work ethic and business savvy from her parents. Both of her parents were business people. Her father owned travel agencies and her mother owned retail businesses. She has put into practice the lessons that she learned from her parents, coupled with practical experience that she earned at the age of 17 while running her family’s business after her father’s death and the knowledge that she obtained through her impressive list of educational credentials. In doing so, she has succeeded in creating the “the largest woman-owned and Hispanic-owned vendor management software firm in the world.”

Vaca is an inspiration to other Latinas and business owners throughout the nation because of her tenacity and vision.  It is not surprising that she has earned a number of important distinctions, including being recognized twice as Business Woman of the Year by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Vaca is the former Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Kohl’s Company and ComAmerica, not to mention being a founding board member of the Startup America Partnership.

María Elena Lagomasino, commonly referred to as Mel, is the CEO and Managing Partner at WE Family Offices.  Lagomasino and her family left Cuba when she was just 11 years old.  Through this experience, she learned to face and overcome challenges at an early age. Lagomasino’s steadfast dedication enabled her to become a leader in the wealth management industry. Individuals who work in the wealth management industry assist individuals to protect and grow their wealth for the benefit of future generations. Lagomasino has taken the lessons that she has learned in the field and used them to help groom and mentor members of the Latino community.

Lagomasino has previously served as the CEO of GenSpring Family Offices. Lagomasino has served as a director of the Coca-Cola Company, Avon Products, Inc. and the Americas Society. In addition, she has served as a Trustee for the National Geographic Society. Lagomasino has been awarded a number of honors for her exemplary work, including the Directorship 100 by the National Association of Corporate Directors and was named by American Banker one of 2012’s Top 25 Women in Finance.  She was also named the Hispanic Business Woman of the Year by Hispanic Business magazine in 2007.

María Martínez is the Executive Vice President-Customers for Life and Chief Growth Officer at She is responsible for overseeing the teams that engage with clients.  In this capacity, they provide customer support and training, in addition to other functions. Martínez is a seasoned business leader with more than 30 years experience.  She has held important leadership positions at Microsoft, AT&T and Motorola, among others. Martínez earned her Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and her Master’s degree in computer engineering at The Ohio State University.

She credits her family values for helping her achieve her career goals. In particular, she attributes her upbringing with instilling in her the motivation and confidence to set high goals and standards for herself.  She was fortunate to have familial support on her journey to achieving her dreams. It is this type of encouragement that has led her to dedicate herself to mentoring other Latinas. According to an interview with, Martínez hopes that future Latina business leaders will remember to never let any type of stereotypes define who you are.  Be very confident about your aspirations and never doubt your capabilities.”

Carmen Castillo is the first Latina in the United States to become the CEO and owner of a billion-dollar company—SDI International Corp (Superior Design International; SDI), a global company that provides IT staffing assistance (also referred to as “workforce solutions”) and assists companies with supplier management.  SDI has grown from a South Florida-based corporation to an international corporation with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and other places.

Castillo, an immigrant from Spain, embraced the American dream and created a plan to realize her entrepreneurial ambitions.  She believes that gender discrimination is one reason that Latinas are seeking more opportunities to create and run their own businesses. She has specifically spoken out about the fact that men often earn better pay and benefits than women. Ms. Castillo has used her position as one of the most successful entrepreneurs to shine a light on some of these inequities to promote workforce diversity.

Castillo’s accomplishments have earned her a host of awards and recognitions, including being named the 2013 Woman of the Year by and an Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women Magazine.

Gina Puente-Brancato’s mother must have looked into a magic mirror with a view into the future when she decided to name her daughter Virginia (Gina) Ivy Puente (VIP). True to her name, Puente, President and CEO of Puente-Brancato Enterprises, has established herself as a successful business person in “retail, hospitality, currency services, food & beverage, wineries, and media advertising businesses.” Puente learned the ropes in business as an “apprentice” to her father beginning at the young age of 8.  She started out by helping him at Southwest Office Systems. Throughout her formative years, her father taught her many important lessons about owning and running businesses. While she worked closely with her father on his business ventures, both of her parents have been important role models in her life. Among other important lessons, they taught her the importance of having grit and maintaining determination against all odds.

Today, Puente and her family operate a number of different businesses at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, including franchises and original business concepts. Puente tested the waters on her own in 1994 when she opened La Bodega Winery, the first-ever airport winery.  She also owns and operates other businesses, such as UFood Grill, Urban Taco and Sky Canyon. In addition to the airport businesses, she owns restaurants at the Parkland Memorial Hospital and a winery in Grapevine, Texas called the La Buena Vida Winery.

Puente has taken the path less followed when it comes to her business model. It is her ability to think outside of the box, her willingness to chart her own course and her courage to take risks that have allowed her to thrive. She has been awarded a number of accolades in acknowledgment of her achievements, creativity and dedication, including the Enterprising Woman of the Year, Latina Entrepreneur of the Year, and Fort Worth and Texas Hispanic Business Woman of the Year. thanks these business leaders for their contributions and for their commitment to mentoring future entrepreneurs and executives.

Who would you add to this list? Share your names below.