03/14/2012 02:39 pm ET

Hilda Solis On Overcoming Barriers

The glass ceiling still keeps many women from reaching the top echelons of business or government. But it's something that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis hasn't experienced herself. The 54-year-old former lawmaker, the first Latina to become a Cabinet secretary, knows firsthand that women can overcome barriers. She was born into a large family of limited means in Southern California, the daughter of a Mexican father and a Nicaraguan mother with less than sixth-grade educations. She was expected to seek a secretarial or clerical job, but, encouraged by a high school counselor, became the first in her family to attend college. After graduating from California State Polytechnic University, she earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

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