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Untapped Talent, Closing the Gap!

Updated: Jun 6, 2023


Marilyn Nagel | Co-Founder & Chief Advocacy Officer, RISEQUITY

Erika Villanueva Vaca | DE&I Intern, H&F

Latinos/Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States, yet they remain underrepresented in professional and leadership roles in our corporations. As the celebration of Hispanic Heritage month comes to an end, we want to bring awareness to this issue. But first, let’s clarify the definitions of Hispanic and Latino since often in the US these terms are used interchangeably, and yet they have different meanings. Hispanic is defined as those who come from Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. Latino/a refers to people whose heritage is from Latin America (Central and South America). People with heritages from both areas are not only grouped together because they often speak the same language (although with different dialects,) they face the same challenges and biases. We believe the biases and myths about this population undermine representation and advancement in corporations and that means we can do something about this.

Companies must first ask their talent acquisition teams why those from this population are not being hired. Latinos are the fastest-growing enrollment group at public institutions, with a 13.3% increase during the spring of 2022. They represent 23% of graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even if not all of these grads have degrees in specialized areas like engineering that companies are looking for, most are qualified for entry-level roles. This suggests that companies affirming their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion and expressing a desire to bring in Latino/a employees have a pool of qualified candidates from which to choose. So, why is Latino/a representation not at 23% in most companies - the available talent pool?

"...biases and myths about this population [Hispanics/Latinos/as] undermine representation and advancement in corporations..."

When we look at companies’ overall representation of Latinos/as, even those with a healthy population often fall short of seeing these individuals move into leadership roles. As with any minority group, it is difficult for Latinos/as to break through the corporate hierarchy. In 2021, Hispanics accounted for only 4% of senior executives. For this reason, the lack of role models makes it difficult for those entering the workforce to “see themselves” in the leadership team of their companies. This affects the recursive hiring cycle and retention. An Axios survey found that 37% of Latino professionals leave their jobs because of the lack of recognition from company leaders and opportunities to advance their careers. And 60% of Latinos felt they were overlooked for promotions because of their ethnic and racial background. Even those already in leadership roles said they experience bias. The IBM Institute for Business Value survey of 1,000 Latinos/as in leadership, illustrated that 63% reported that they “continue to work harder because of their race,” and 87% experienced racial prejudice.

Ideally, Latinos who have succeeded in their professional careers become a beacon of hope to those just starting. But the continuance of myths surrounding Hispanics and Latinos allows racial prejudice to persist. A national survey conducted by BSP research found that non-Hispanics think one-third of Hispanics in the U.S. are undocumented. In reality, that number is only 13%. Additionally, there is still a widespread belief that Latinos/as are not proficient in English, yet 72% of all Latinos, ages five and older, speak English proficiently, per the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau. These are just 2 of the many biases that Latinos/as working to grow their careers face. The lack of mentorships, sponsorships, and development opportunities for all under-represented minorities is well documented and clearly impacts this group’s growth into leadership roles.

But there is good news on the horizon. Organizations like HITEC and leaders like Guillermo Diaz, founder of Conectado, are bringing together individuals, educational institutions, social impact organizations, and corporations to increase representation.

What is your organization doing? Join the conversation, share your best practices, and let’s leverage this great talent pool to make our corporations more innovative and reflective of our society and culture!

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