One of the four core values Hispanics and Latinos embrace is work, and it is work that provides meaning, mobility and economic security. During the pandemic when so many lost their jobs, family and friends took them into their homes, but even while unemployed they worked – often working for free to help others. While unemployed, many volunteered in the community, delivered food boxes and helped however they could. Understanding this work ethic, it is not surprising that by the year 2025 the Center for Talent Innovation projects Hispanics will account for 50% of workers entering the workforce. As workers and consumers, the Hispanic population is a powerful economic force that businesses need to embrace.
Where’s the Hispanic Diversity in Leadership?
With nearly 61 million Hispanic Americans living in the U.S., it should surprise and dismay everyone to learn people of Hispanic heritage hold approximately 2% of Fortune 500 CEO positions, and 3% of boardroom seats in Fortune 500 companies, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility.1 They hold approximately 4% of corporate executive positions. This is in spite of the fact that most organizational leaders know that diversity at the executive level will positively impact job satisfaction and profitability.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, it is the ideal time to reconcile the work ethic of Hispanics and Latinos and their slow progress in reaching management levels. Before the pandemic, Hispanic-Americans experienced faster income growth than any other diverse group, with millions moving into the middle class as they became upwardly mobile. They are using education as a major stepping stone, and taking advantage of job opportunities in corporate America. Despite the progress, it could be so much more, if not for stubborn biases in the workplace.
Staying Positive and Making Positive Change
Despite driving nearly 25% of U.S. GDP growth, Hispanics and Latinos continue to face discrimination and stereotyping in the workplace which locks them out of career advancement. Study after study has shown they are expected to change their communication style, conform to white male standards, and leave their authentic selves at home if they want to advance. Despite this they press on, supported by their strong work ethic, and organizations need their insights in order to access the labor market and new market opportunities. They need Hispanic leaders that serve as role models.
The IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of almost 1,000 Hispanic leaders. With a strong work ethic, Hispanics said the behaviors contributing most to success are goal setting, flexibility and staying positive, and team building. They pursue financial security and creating positive change, reflecting cultures that put people first. The survey also found that pervasive discrimination against Hispanics persists, and that non-Hispanic leaders try to categorize Hispanics into a single group.2 The reality is that Hispanics and Latinos are diverse in their own group, but seeking commonalities among the groups is empowering.
When people believe they must repress their authenticity in the workplace, everyone loses. Right now, it is the Hispanics who do try to emulate white male behaviors (people who are promoted more quickly), but the stress of trying to be like others is immense. In addition, repression of real identities means companies are not tapping into the incredible market opportunities because they are not listening to fresh perspectives. U.S. Hispanic consumers are already estimated to have $1.5 trillion in buying power, and many economists anticipate they are the key to future sustained economic growth.
Leveraging the Power of Hispanics to Succeed
Ending discrimination against Hispanics and Latinos in the workplace is not only the right thing to do. It is a long-term business growth strategy, and it is important to the U.S. and global economies. Marketers can leverage cultural intelligence to tap into a huge market. There are many steps that organizations can take to tackle bias in the workplace. They include Hispanic-focused cultural events to gain cultural understanding and celebrate heritage; ensuring bias does not exist in the recruiting, hiring, training and development, and retention practices; offering mentoring and sponsorships; and making an honest effort to encourage employees to be their authentic selves. Empower Hispanics and Latinos, and you are empowering the world.