For 2022, the theme of Hispanic Heritage Month is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation. The goal is to help build stronger communities (and a stronger nation) by ensuring diverse voices and perspectives are being welcomed in decision-making processes. This is a critical issue, especially in our nation’s largest corporations, where Hispanics are often “celebrated” but only rarely truly included in the highest ranks of management.
Hispanics make up some 18.5 percent of the US population, according to the latest figures from the US Census Bureau. Yet their representation in corporate leadership position renders them practically invisible. Out of all the executive positions in the Fortune 1000, Hispanic professionals hold only four percent.
This is unfortunate, to say the least. How can companies claim to represent or understand Hispanic communities when so few of their own leaders are Hispanic? Further, from a business perspective, how can companies successfully do business with Hispanic communities and consumers when so few at the top have an authentic Hispanic voice contributing to the conversation?
It’s not merely about doing the right thing (if only the world worked that way!). Hispanic communities are some of the fastest growing segments of the US market, and the fastest growing segment of workers. By 2030, in fact, it is estimated that one in five American workers will be Hispanic.
This makes it all the more important – during Hispanic Heritage Month and throughout the year – to amplify Hispanic voices. To include Hispanics in leadership and leadership-track positions. To make it so that in the very near future, some 20 percent of the workforce isn’t represented by a paltry four percent of the executive team. Toward that end, let’s examine three things companies could start doing now to bring more Hispanics into leadership roles and key decision-making processes.
First, be sure that the workplace really does allow for Hispanics to bring their full selves to work. According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation, one of the biggest issues Hispanic’s face in the workplace is feeling like they need to modulate themselves and their voice to avoid discrimination and bias. This often means “toning down” self-expression or the vibrancy of dress and speech. Yet if Hispanics are hiding themselves behind majority or “normcore” culture, they will not be able to contribute their experiences and their lived truth to the critical conversations and decisions that need to happen both for inclusivity and for the successful survival of most business institutions.
Second, firms need to make a real effort to expand their job profiles when seeking to fill vacancies at the executive level and on boards. The tendency to hire people who look like the people who are already there or currently filling the roles is understandable, but contributes to long-standing exclusions. Looking outside of “traditional” university experiences, backgrounds, and career paths could help companies gain exposure to a large and rapidly growing pool of available talent.
Finally, firms need to do more with mentorship and sponsorship. Some 44 percent of Hispanics are the first ones in their family to attend college. Hispanics have been underrepresented in corporate spaces for decades. Having a guiding partner to help build connections and gain familiarity with the corporate world is critical to helping Hispanics feel comfortable and do their best. Plus, these relationships can also be essential to helping talented Hispanics feel seen and be seen by management, selection committees, and talent planning boards.
Corporate strength – business strength – comes from strong decision making. This isn’t possible when large groups of workers are absent from leadership teams and key decision-making processes. With this year’s theme, Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation, Hispanic Heritage Month offers everyone a chance to step back and reflect on how much stronger companies could be and how much further they could go if one of the largest and most vibrant elements of the workforce were to be truly included and heard.