Dominguez, Cari: 1949—: EEOC Chair

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Cari Dominguez: 1949: EEOC Chair

In 2001 Cari Dominguez was sworn in as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the foremost civil rights agency in the United States. Dominguez's position has allowed her to continue her lifelong work with employment-related and advancement issues, and to address the barriers raised by discrimination in a proactive, rather than reactive, way.

Dominguez was born on March 8, 1949, in Havana, Cuba. The Dominguez family, like many others, felt the strain of the political upheaval of the time. Her father, concerned for his family's safety, sent them to the United States in 1961it would be six years until Dominguez's father joined his family in America. After graduating from Maryland's Montgomery-Blair High School in 1967, Dominguez attended the American University's School of International Service, earning a bachelor's degree in 1971. She also completed her master's degree at the school in 1997. She was also a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Advanced Study Program in Public Management.

Joined Bank of America

Initially planning a career as a foreign service officer, Dominguez was first hired by the U.S, Internal Revenue Service. She then worked at the Veteran's Administration before joining the U.S Department of Labor. In 1983 Dominguez left Washington, D.C., for San Francisco, joining the Bank of America Corporation.

Dominguez first gained notice when, hoping to showcase her ability, she volunteered to coordinate a Bank America fundraiser. She brainstormed a talent/variety show and recruited performers from the financial arena. The event's fantastic success caught the attention of Bank America Chair and CEO Samuel Arma-cost, and, as Dominguez told Hispanic Business, "The next thing I knew, my career took off." She remained with Bank America for several years, holding two vice presidential positions, including vp and director of executive programs and vp and corporate manager of EEO and affirmative action. The company also presented her with its highest honor, the Eagle Award for excellence.

In 1988, after George H. W. Bush's election to the presidency, Dominguez returned to Washington, D.C. as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards and director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. During her time at the U.S. Labor Department, she spearheaded the Glass Ceiling Initiative, a program intended to clear the barriers against professional advancement for minorities and women. One of the Initiative's first steps toward this goal was to establish a pilot study to examine how U.S. corporations filled mid- and upper-level management positions.

With the 1992 turnover in the presidency, Dominguez returned to the private sector to work for two executive search firms, first the San Francisco-based Spencer Stuart, and later the Washington, D.C. office of Heid-rick & Struggles. At Heidrick & Struggles, Dominguez served as a diversity issues consultant, traveling to businesses across the nation.

At a Glance . . .

Born Cari Maria Dominguez on March 8, 1949, in Havana, Cuba; married; two sons. Education: American University, School of International Service, B.A. 1971, M.A. 1997; MIT, Fellow, Advanced Study Program in Public Management.

Career: Bank America Corporation, Vice President and Director of Executive Programs and Vice President and Corporate Manager of EEO and Affirmative Action, 1983-88; U.S. Department of Labor, assistant secretary of Labor for Employment Standards and director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, 1988-92; Spencer Stuart, director, 1992-93; Heidrick & Struggles, Partner, 1993-99; Dominguez & Associates, principal, 1999-01; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, chair, 2001.

Memberships: Human Resources Planning Society Board; Leadership Foundation of the International Women's Forum Board; Hispanic Business Roundtable Board; Holy Names College Board.

Awards: Eagle Award, Bank America Corporation; American Biographical Institute, 2000 Most Notable American Women; Hispanic Business, 80 Elite Hispanic Women; Hispanic Business, 100 Most Influential Hispanics.

Address: Office United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 1801 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20507.

Nominated for EEOC Chair

In 1999 Dominguez launched her own consulting firm, Dominguez & Associates. But two years later, President George W. Bush called her back to government service, nominating her for the position of EEOC chair on May 10, 2001. Confirmed unanimously that July, Dominquez was sworn in a month later for a five year term. According to an EEOC press release reporting her confirmation, Dominguez stated that the EEOC's mission "captures the promise of America and the mandate of our times: that no worker be left behind for reasons as wasteful and abhorrent as prejudice and discrimination."

That sentiment was soon put to the test, as the attack on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2001, caused a backlash against Arab-Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs. Following the tragedy, discrimination complaints of this type rose so high the EEOC was forced to instigate a new classification for such report statistics. In and EEOC press release Dominguez commented on this racial backlash, urging employers to remain alert to discrimination. She noted, "Preventing and prohibiting injustice against our fellow workers is one way to fight back, if only symbolically, against the evil forces that assaulted our workplaces."

In addition to fighting all workplace discrimination, Dominguez was expanding the Glass Ceiling Initiative work she had begun while at the Labor Department. The expansion, dubbed the Freedom to Compete Initiative, aimed at the root of barriers to workplace advancement. The struggle to uphold America's laws regarding civil rights must focus on underlying beliefs about culture. The task is to identify and understand these barriers in order to remove them permanently. To help spread the word, the EEOC did a series of Public Service Announcements starring Olympic athletes. "We want to increase the knowledge base and heighten awareness," Dominguez told the Call and Post newspaper.

Dominguez believed that cooperation, and not confrontation, is the key to successfully combating methodical discrimination. She told the Call and Post, "We have a responsibility to look at the trends, and use the resources of the commission to look at patterns and practices" in order to identify and prevent problems ahead of time, rather than confronting the issues after the fact. In a March of 2002 address to the Society for Human Resource Management, reported by Hispanic Journal, Dominguez stated, "There is a role for litigation once the harm is done, but there is a greater calling if we can prevent the discrimination from happening in the first place."

Addressed Canadian Parliament

Under Dominguez's leadership, the EEOC began to work more closely with local and state agencies. In addition, in April of 2002, she was the first chair to address the Canadian Parliament. "The United States and Canada share many issues of mutual concern with respect to the advancement of racial and ethnic minority group members, women, and people with disabilities in our workforces," Dominguez said in an EEOC press release.

Dominguez has been the recipient of much recognition, notably inclusion on two lists from Hispanic Business : The 100 Most Influential Hispanics and 80 Elite Hispanic Women. She also appeared on the 2000 Most Notable American Women list from the American Biographical Institute. She has served on several boards for non-profit groups, including the Human Resources Planning Society, the Leadership Foundation of the International Women's Forum, the Hispanic Business Roundtable, and Holy Names College. Dominguez and her husband, Alberto, have made their home in Maryland with their two sons.



Notable Hispanic American Women, Book 2. Gale Research, 1998.


Hispanic Business, April 2002.

Hispanic Journal, April 2, 2002.


Call and Post,

Helene Barker Kiser