Breaking Through Barriers

Maritza Villanueva

Maritza Villanueva won’t let a glass ceiling or language barrier come between her and success—an attitude that has helped her become Citgo’s first woman vice president of finance and information technology.

Maritza Villanueva doesn’t let barriers get in her way. As the first woman to hold the vice president position of finance and information technology at Citgo Petroleum Corporation, Villanueva broke through not just a glass ceiling, but a language barrier as well.

Born in San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela, but raised in Caracas, she was the youngest of 11 children, growing up in a middle-class family, surrounded by the love and protection of her parents and siblings. “I’ve always been the type of person who works hard. I give myself entirely to the job, as well as take care of my family I really enjoy it,” she says. “The key to success is perseverance and strength. I had to study and work at the same time and that required a lot of self-discipline.”

Thinking Out Loud

Trading Words With

Maritza Villanueva

Perseverance

Never abandoning your dreams. Self-discipline to help you achieve your goals and never failing.

Success

To take advantage of every opportunity to the max and inspiring others to do the same.

Glass ceiling

Women should see themselves as equal to men. If you want to give the best of yourself and if you have the knowledge and skills, the glass ceiling doesn’t exist.

Latina

Passion, culture, family, sense of responsibility, and traditions.

When she took her first accounting job at 17, Villanueva has set goals for herself and having those goals has helped her to advance in her career. Armed with a master’s degree, Villanueva moved to the United States from Venezuela leaving friends and family to advance her career nine years ago.

Villanueva now directs six male general managers who oversee treasury, budget, corporate risk, comptroller, and IT departments. She not only reports directly to Citgo’s CEO, but she is also the face of the company to its investors, banks, rating companies, and the financial community. “I have a lot of self-discipline,” she says. “I demand a lot from myself that way when I ask a lot from others, they can see that that’s what I do. I work 9-to-10 hours a day. This is an all-day-type of job. But, it doesn’t bother me. I am dedicated to this job.”

Villanueva joined Citgo in 2003 after working for its parent company in Venezuela; in eight years, she reached her current position. And this is no small company with more than 3,500 in its workforce. Citgo refines, transports, and markets gasoline from its refineries and markets other petroleum products throughout 6,000 retail outlets. In her current role, Villanueva is charged with establishing clear direction and vision for Citgo’s financial operations and strategies.

Despite working in a male-dominated field, Villanueva doesn’t see it as challenge. “I see obstacles as a way to show who you are and your skills,” she said. “It was hard, but with time I was able to overcome it. I set a goal and I don’t stop pursuing it until I accomplish it.”

It has been her work ethic that earned the respect of the every person who works beside her. “They respect my experience and my leadership,” she says.

Villanueva tries to share this message of respect with other women executives: “Women have to think of themselves [as having] a great potential to do many things at the same time with a global dimension. [While] managing their family and their workspace, it is important to believe in your potential … I’ve met women in different countries that are scared to speak up,” she says. “They just need to have confidence in their own skills.”