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Corporate America: The State of Latinos in Corporate America and America's Top Law Firms and Technology: Broadband -- The Effects on the Latino Community

The Status of Latinos in the Legal Profession

While Latinos in the law profession can rejoice that the ultimate glass ceiling has been broken with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, there is still a lot of work to do to gain our share of success in America's top law firms and seats as corporate general counsels.  

Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (PR) hopes to see Latinos represented proportionally throughout corporate America-including the nation's top law firms. He said that while Latinos are attending many of the top law schools, we are not seeing the number we would expect as associates in top law firms, and even fewer are making partner at these firms. He sees the need to boost the number of Latinos in law schools across the country by interesting Latino student in law careers in middle and high school and to develop best practices to recruit Latino lawyers into the best law firms.

The news for the Latino lawyers is even of greater concern. The 2008 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reports that there are only 13,000 Latina lawyers in the United States. A new study by the Hispanic National Bar Association Commission on Latinas and the Profession, "Few and Far Between," says that Latino lawyers face multiple layers of class ceilings-gender, ethnicity, and race provide a triple threat to all phases of their legal careers from entering law school to professional practice. They also face a significant wage disparity with Latinas earning $120,000 on average, their white counterparts earn $254,000, and white males earn $314,000. While the results are influenced by years of practice, the study found that Latinas typically are assigned a lighter case load and have diminished networking opportunities.


Broadband and the Effects on the Latino Community

The great digital divide-access to telecom, computers, and the Internet-is a major infrastructure challenge for low-income and rural communities. "Access to broadband puts the world's knowledge at your fingertips, improves quality of life, and provides critical resources to students," said Rep. Silvestre Reyes (TX-16). He noted that Bill Gates recently said "the Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow."

It's a platform to connect all Americans, reform government, and tackle key priorities-including healthcare and energy. Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC, noted that while 63 percent of Americans have access to broadband, only 44 percent of Latinos do.

Panel members, including Congressmen Joe Baca (CA-43) and Charles Gonzalez (TX-20), discussed the primary challenges in bringing broadband access to all Americas-deployment, adoption, and affordability. There are still parts of the country where broadband is not available-particularly in rural areas.

Current estimates indicate that about 60 percent of seniors and low income do not have current access to broadband. Access to broadband also lowers barriers to entrepreneurship and provides more access to investment opportunities. Wilkes cited lack of awareness of the availability and benefits of broadband, comfort with the technology, fear of malicious activities such as identity theft, pricing, and accessibility as key factors limiting Latino broadband use.

Anna Gomez, deputy assistant secretary for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with the U.S. Department of Commerce, put the issue in perspective: "In the country that invented the Internet, every child should be able to get online." She noted that the American Recovery Act will leverage $7.2 billion for NTIA broadband mapping and rural access to broadband. An additional $4.7 billion will be deployed to bring broadband to underserved areas. More than $1.2 billion is being allocated to last mile and middle mile gaps in broadband networks along with educational awareness and equipment support to vulnerable communities.

Gus West, president and board chair of The Hispanic Institute, said that while the Hispanic community still lags behind in broadband access, it has made tremendous strides from where we were. Hispanics, however, lead the general population in mobile broadband-using more cell phone minutes, greater cell phone ownership than the general public, and downloading more digital media, movies, and pod casts. He sees broadband as a tool to improve Hispanic graduation rates and to improve healthcare in the community with online patient monitoring to report such indicators as blood sugar level and heart rates. He says that telecoms have done a great job of bringing their rates down, but the rates quoted do not include the taxes and fees that really drive the prices up.

Alma Morales Rojas, president of MANA, reports potential savings to the economy of more than $4 billion using broadband to address communications issues between Latinos and their doctors and nearly $200 billion in savings over the next 25 years in reducing hospital care costs for these patients.