Christmas and New Year’s Holiday Hours

Quick Start for:
Fiscal Notes Logo

June/July 2009

By Gerard MacCrossan

Top Women

Women by
the Numbers

Women, minorities fuel work force growth

The share of U.S. women who were employed in 1974.

The share of U.S. women who were employed in 2006.

The share of Texas women employed in 2008.

The share of black women in Texas who were employed in 2008.

The share of the overall work force made up by Hispanic women in 2008.

For more information on national and state labor statistics, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Tracey Lamphere)

Humana chief blazes
trail to success.

Women have risen through the ranks to leadership roles in most professions; however, men still are three times more likely to be a chief executive. But in Texas, the business landscape is changing. Successful Texas businesswomen are laying the foundation and raising the bar for a new generation of women leaders.

Linda Hummel-McAlpin, Market Chief Executive Officer, Humana of Central and South Texas

“A woman can accomplish anything she sets her mind to professionally,” says Linda Hummel-McAlpin, chief executive officer for Humana of Central Texas and South Texas. “I have never felt that I had any less than an equal shot at anything I’d set out to do in my career. I’m a hard worker, and I’ve got a lot of passion about making positive changes in the personal and professional lives of others.”

Women comprise 46.5 percent of the U.S. labor force, and slightly outnumbered men in holding 51 percent of management and professional occupations during 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But they still lag behind when it comes to the top jobs. At just 23.4 percent of the nation’s 1.6 million chief executives, women’s share has barely changed since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this statistic in 2003.

Still, women are making progress. In 2009, 15 of the Fortune 500 companies are headed by women CEOs, up from 12 in 2008. Women owned 10.1 million firms nationwide in 2008. These companies employed 13 million people and generated $1.9 trillion in sales. In San Antonio alone, 41,000 women-owned businesses generate sales of $6.3 billion annually.

Career Success

The Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas recently named Hummel-McAlpin the Texas Business Woman of the Year. In previous years, these awards have honored top business women in Texas from companies such as Shell Oil USA and Southwest Airlines.

A Woman With Power

Seizing opportunity put Paula DiFonzo in a position shared by few Texas women — chief executive of a municipal utility. She has headed New Braunfels Utilities (NBU), the electricity, water and wastewater provider for the Central Texas city of more than 50,000, for the past 15 years.

Paula DiFonzo,
Chief Executive, New Braunfels Utilities

Becoming head of her hometown utility company wasn’t DiFonzo’s ambition when she and husband Bob returned to New Braunfels after his military service. DiFonzo, who hadn’t attended college by that point, joined NBU 27 years ago in the accounts payable department. A decade later, the mother of two young boys had obtained her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and was moving up the career ladder as opportunities presented themselves at NBU.

DiFonzo says the utility industry traditionally has retained employees for a long time. General manager and CEO openings were rare, one reason that woman aren’t commonly found in leadership roles.

“The evolution is occurring,” she says. “I think you’ll see more and more women in leadership in public power and utilities. I see them coming up.

“I got to be one of the first in Texas,” DiFonzo says. “At the time, I had a board of trustees that said ‘We’ll take a chance on you.’ They typically hired engineers, but they liked what I had to offer – customer service and financial experience.”

DiFonzo’s hire to run New Braunfels Utilities emphasized financial, customer service priorities.

Fifteen years on, through the challenging deregulated electricity market and ever more complex rules on water and wastewater management, DiFonzo says she and the board believe it’s been a successful decision.

Managing the three facets of NBU’s service ensure that no two days are ever the same.

“It’s all customer service, but they certainly have very different charges: electricity is a competitive business, wastewater is heavily regulated and water has scarcity of supply," she says. “We’ve got competitive rates, good relationships with our customers and a good relationship with the community. It carries a lot of responsibility to try to make sure NBU meets its responsibilities to its customers. I think I have developed relationships in the industry that have allowed us to not only learn, but provide leadership within public power in the state.”

In addition to the challenges of supply, incorporating new technology and providing superior customer service, NBU faces work force challenges as longtime employees retire, taking decades of knowledge with them.

“We have to develop our work force, so we have begun trying to create programs that can be used to train new workers and support continuing education,” she says. “We work with other industries and have been building curriculum with (Alamo College’s) Central Texas Technology Center in New Braunfels. Historically, we kept a small work force – people wore a lot of hats. We are developing a human resources department that that can do the next big job of recruitment, taking a multi-pronged attack of external marketing and internal development.” FN

Did You Know?

Fortune magazine recently released its list of Fortune 1000 companies. Only two of the 118 Texas companies to make the list are headed by a woman. Cindy B. Taylor is president and CEO of Oil States International headquartered in Houston. Catherine Burzik is director of Kinetic Concepts, based in San Antonio.

Hummel-McAlpin accepted her position as head of Humana’s South Texas operations in 2002, becoming the company’s first female market chief executive officer. In 2008 she also acquired responsibilities for Humana’s operations in Central Texas, making her accountable for more than 300,000 Humana health plan members. Among her many community activities, Hummel-McAlpin is on the Board of Trustees of the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and has chaired the KLRN Women’s Health Conference.

She had a career in banking before joining Humana in San Antonio. Just six months after her son’s birth in 1990, Hummel-McAlpin was juggling the roles of mother and executive. She says the support of strong mentors helped her develop into a corporate leader.

“Humana puts a lot of focus into developing leadership,” she says. “Humana CEO Mike McCallister worked in Texas for five years when I was the sales vice president. He and others were incredibly generous with their time and very influential in my career development. Having strong mentors is key.”

Hummel-McAlpin says she had aspirations of leading the charge for change when she joined Humana. While her sights weren’t set on becoming CEO, she wanted a position that would allow for growth and give her the ability to make a positive impact on the delivery of quality health care, her organization and her community.

“It’s no surprise that Linda has achieved so much professional success and recognition in recent years,” says McCallister. “With discipline and enthusiasm, she’s grown into a strategic leader who is an inspiration to her state and to her colleagues.”

Being a mentor to others is one of her biggest passions.

“The last 10 years, as I’ve transitioned into the CEO role, a key focus has been to help remove barriers and influence change in the health care industry; it’s a very complex system,” she says. “I also spend a great deal of my time identifying, educating and mentoring Humana’s young future leaders.”

Under her leadership, Humana has aligned with community causes in South and Central Texas including the American Cancer Society, United Way, Junior Achievement and mentoring programs. FN

For more information on other successful Texas business women, visit the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas. There you’ll find their 2008 “Blazing Star” Winners — honored for blazing their own unique paths to professional achievement.

Required Plug-ins