Hispanic Heritage Month offers us a chance to honor the Hispanic community’s vibrant diversity and incredible contributions. It’s also a time to take a closer look and reflect on where Hispanics are in today’s workforce – and what efforts still need to be made for a fairer, more open workplace for all.
The Hispanic Experience in the Workforce
Hispanic employees are gaining ground in today’s workplace but still face issues unique to their demographic group. Although the Hispanic workforce – and the Hispanic population in the United States as a whole – is growing, workers are still facing biases at several levels.
In 2016, the Society for Human Resource Management and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute commissioned a report on the state of Hispanic representation and experiences in the workplace. Among other things, their research found where Hispanics are most (and least) represented and how the Hispanic workforce is evolving.
- At the time of the report in 2016, Hispanics made up 16% of the overall U.S. labor market. The report predicted that Hispanics would account for one out of every two new workers entering the workforce by 2025.
- Hispanics represent the second largest and second-fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau projected that Hispanics will represent 28.6% of the population by 2060.
- Around one-quarter of all Millennials are Hispanic, and Hispanic Millennials are more likely than other Millennials to seek out workplaces where they can “put down roots” and stay longer.
- As of 2016, the sectors with the highest proportion of Hispanic workers were construction (27.3% of the sector workforce), agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting (23.1%), and leisure/hospitality (22.3%).
- Hispanic representation in STEM fields is especially low, accounting for only 6.5% of the workforce.
Even as Hispanics move to fill these gaps and advance their careers, they may still face subtle or outright discrimination. Today’s companies often tout their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, but for many Hispanic employees, those efforts don’t do enough to repair years or even decades of frustrations.
One study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that the vast majority (76%) of Hispanic or Latinx employees report having to spend their energy on repressing, downplaying, or modifying parts of their personas in the workplace. Those same employees are nearly three times as likely to say they are being “promoted quickly” than Hispanic or Latinx employees who spend less of their energy on altering their workplace personas.
The reason for these behaviors is simple: companies and leaders often fail to expand their definition of “professionalism” and “leadership” beyond traditional bounds – that is, beyond the “executive presence” that conforms to traditionally white male standards. Forty-three percent of Hispanic/Latinx women and 33% of men reported feeling a need to compromise their authenticity to adhere to those standards.
Similarly, the majority of employees overall (56%) believe that their company’s leadership fails to see value in ideas when they don’t personally understand the need for them. This lack of understanding trickles down in insidious ways. For instance, 63% of Hispanic or Latinx employees reported one or more of the following: They do not feel included in their workplace culture, do not feel invited to share their ideas, or do not feel confident that their ideas are genuinely heard and valued.
Hispanic-Led Organizations Making Change
Fortunately, many Hispanic-focused, Hispanic-led organizations are working hard to effect change.
In East Tennessee, Centro Hispano is working to invest in Latinx excellence early on. Their focus is on building a supportive community and providing well-rounded offerings. Programs are dedicated to engaging youth early on, providing workforce development classes, and other opportunities to help community members overcome obstacles in their path.
While organizations like Centro Hispano focus on the bigger picture, some are geared explicitly at advancing Hispanic excellence in the professional world. ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America) is the first national Latino professional association in the United States, established in Los Angeles in 1972. It now boasts over 100,000 professional and student members, offering Hispanic/Latinx professionals opportunities for career development, networking, mentorship, and more.
Their solutions also include technology to keep up with the increasingly high-tech world of hiring and recruiting. ALPFA+ is the most advanced professional networking and learning platform for the Latino community. Additionally, ALPFA facilitates access to over 50,000 paid summer internships through hundreds of Fortune 1000 corporate partners and other development opportunities.
At the highest levels, Hispanics are ready to take on leadership positions – but executive leadership doesn’t always seem ready for them. The Latino Corporate Directors Organization aims to change that.
In 2019, LCDO’s research revealed the low numbers of Hispanic/Latinx representation at the highest levels of the business world. They found that Latinos held only 2.2% of the board seats on publicly traded companies. 76.8% of the Fortune 1000 companies did not have a single Latino on their board, and Latinos occupied only 2.7% of Fortune 1000 board seats.
The organization works to change that with a three-pronged approach: “grow demand, grow supply, raise awareness.” While advocating for existing Hispanic/Latinx talent to become board members, they’re also preparing Hispanic/Latinx executives to sit on boards and working from all sides to achieve those goals.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we salute the efforts of organizations like these while reaffirming our commitment to recognizing and supporting Hispanic talent wherever we may find it.
By Ruben Moreno
About the Author
After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.” Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.
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