Blazing the trail: Latina leaders in the corporate world

Irma Becerra-Fernández

In the 1980s the American Club, founded in Havana in 1901 and transplanted to the penthouse of the Royal Trust Tower in Little Havana, became a haven for Cuban-American men who rose to powerful positions in government and business to network among themselves and with their Anglo male counterparts.

In the camaraderie forged by Chivas-on-the-rocks and after-lunch cafecitos and cigars, alliances were formed, deals made, promotions promised.

“We knew we had to be a part of that scene to get anywhere, so we started showing up for lunch,” remembers Aida Levitán, a prominent Miami businesswoman and one of the trailblazing advertising and marketing mavens — among them, Maria Elena Toraño and the late Tere Zubizarreta — who cracked codes and integrated male-dominated South Florida business institutions.

Hispanic women have come a long way from the days when they only accompanied their husbands to social affairs, raised funds for charity and lunched with the girls.

Today, Hispanic women lead or have led three of the most powerful business groups in Miami-Dade — the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Beacon Council and the Latin Builders Association — and are represented in virtually every field from engineering to medicine. Entrepreneurial, they own businesses and are in leadership roles in highly-charged professions such as law, real estate, health services and the media.

. . .

Irma Becerra-Fernández, another successful South Florida Latina, grew up in a traditional home in Puerto Rico with the expectation she would get a university education and build a family. Her career moves, however, were supposed to take a back seat to family.

“I struggled early on with what was it going to mean for me to excel in my profession and at the same time excel as a mom,” Becerra-Fernández said. “The priority for me was my family. I thought about that when I was back in college. Will I have to quit my job to raise my kids? I didn’t have a clear answer to that. Most Latinas still struggle today with that.”

Read: “Blazing the trail: Latina leaders in the corporate world,“ an article from the


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