Originally published in TopMBA.com
Written by: Marie Field
It is estimated that more than 300 million people around the world speak Spanish. In the US alone, 35 million people speak the language and the country’s Hispanic population is rapidly growing. While English remains the international language of business, there is no doubt that an understanding of the Spanish language is right up there with Mandarin as an important asset to successful commerce. And it isn’t just language – but knowledge and experience of Hispanic cultural intricacies and values that are imperative to understanding Spanish-speaking markets.
With high demand from companies around the world for strategic thinkers with a deep understanding of Hispanic culture, it is surprising that such a small share of business-school applicants are indeed Hispanic. According to GMAC – the council responsible for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), in the US alone, there was a five per cent decline in Hispanic American test-takers in 2006, from the previous year.
Jose Antonio Cruzado, Director of the QS World MBA Tour Latin American leg, reports that while there may be a decline in Hispanic GMAT test-takers in countries like the US, this doesn’t mean a lack of interest in MBA programs amongst Spanish speakers worldwide. “Our fairs in countries like Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela have oversold this year,” says Jose Antonio. “People know very well that there is an exceptionally high demand among recruiters to hire people immersed in Hispanic culture, particularly when it comes to marketing.”
Jaime Martinez, Associate Director and Admissions Consultant at Finisterra, an MBA admissions consultancy group based in Mexico City, explains, “Latin American students have the skills and command of language and are therefore very valuable to the organizations which they may wish to join in the Spanish market – either in the EU or Latin America.”
Latin American MBAs have a good chance at joining the ranks of commerce teams in the US (if this is their goal), so even if fewer Hispanic Americans are graduating from business school, there will still be a highly qualified group of graduates to cover the booming Hispanic market in the US. And of course, Spanish-speaking MBAs from the US will have excellent opportunities.
The National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) aims to promote business education in the community, and has done well. As a fundamental goal, the organization aims to increase the number of Hispanics on Fortune 500 boards, in addition to promoting leadership of Hispanic professionals. One initiative the NSHMBA has taken is awarding scholarships to high-achieving Hispanics who wish to take on the MBA – a big step forward to increasing the number of Hispanic MBAs available to take on necessary business.
American corporations are also recognizing the gap in Hispanic talent. Companies like Coca Cola, Pfizer, Citibank, and P&G donate money to the scholarship pool, all too well knowing that future revenues and company image depend on this demographic, a demographic that after all makes up 13% of the US population. And for those who have already earned their MBAs – career opportunities are only beginning to multiply.