October 24, 2016
By Cherise Tolbert
When applying for a new job as a Latino, many are now faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to go beyond the basic completion of the typical diversity disclosure questionnaire and whether or not to inform a potential employer about one's "culturally cultivated skills." In other words, is playing the Latino card wise? Also, on the flip side, employers have been encouraged to increase diversity in their workforce citing studies touting innovative benefits, but are faced with wondering if actively seeking a specific segment of the population is really beneficial and possible.
According to new projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics published in September, the Latino share of employees in the USA is going to double within 40 years. In fact, Latinos are expected to make up almost a third (30.3%) of the US workforce by 2060. This makes avoiding bringing in the specific Latino segment of the population not only unwise, but careless. Integrating Latinos into teams now could allow for time to iron out cultural misappropriations, how to appreciate Latino strengths, and how to teach Latino employees to reflect their identities positively in their work.
The reality of what is going on currently, though, is closer to careless than careful. Being the only Latino in an office of 10 is not all that uncommon; 16.6% of the US workforce is Hispanic currently. Many of us are accustomed to the occasional "happy cinco de mayo" and "what's the best taco joint in town," but in the not so distant future it will be "who's favorite taqueria is mejor?" The truth is that aside from covering their bases, many companies' diversity efforts are still sub par. It's easy for employers to say that diversity and inclusion are an important part of company hiring policies, with that well known standard line thrown in at the end of most job descriptions. This keeps employers safe from legal hassles, and makes them look good at first glance. A glaring misstep, as leadership at these companies are omitting a key factor when calculating the careful projections they rely on for economic sustainability and growth: the future of the Latino population and its share of the workforce.
Hence, not only should leadership ensure innovation through diversity and promote genuine cultural integration, but company policy and practice should reflect proper planning for a strong future Hispanic workforce presence. This means, for example, that personal connections that Latinos love to foster should be given space, encouraged, and used to benefit relations outside the office. Furthermore, building in social opportunities could promote sustainability of these practices and dictate the tone with which these interactions occur for years to come. Company culture could even become dictated by practices such as these and therefore Latino professional traits and skills will be central to success. In other words, the company lounge may need to be stocked with pequin and educational programs may need to be provided to non hispanic employees about cultural misappropriation and tokenization, even for that one Latino who is suppressing herself in the office now, for the sake of the future three that will rock the company's success in 2060.
Also unfortunately, however, is the need most Latinos feel to suppress themselves at work. The Harvard Business Review recently cited a study, which included Latinos feeling the need to change basic personality traits like clothing and communication style, a huge mistake on corporate leadership's behalf because research has also found that those who are themselves are more likely to be promoted, and companies are also better able to understand their large Latino market. Therefore, actively seeking out a specific part of the population, Latinos, is not only recommended, but critical to future success of any company. Down the road bad press about diversity could make companies seem unattractive to top candidates. Some tech giants have even felt this heat recently, and without quickly addressing the lack of inclusion, and importantly a Latino presence, they are setting themselves up to not only miss out on current innovative opportunities, but be grossly unable to meet their market needs and create a positive corporate atmosphere in the future.
This can also be applied to the job applicant perspective. Job candidates need to effectively communicate their uniquely Hispanic skills as advantageous for not just present but also future company success. But walking the fine line of playing your Latino card when applying for a new position can be dificil! So when you play that Latino card, make the argument not just for innovation and good communication skills, but offer a glimpse of the future which employers can no longer deny. Even better, companies do not know how to integrate your talent, so help them understand how you can help them with this - something they should be desperate to do.
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Cherise Tolbert works for LatPro.com, author of the free WORKSMART job search / career guide, and award winning employment website working to connect Hispanic and bilingual job seekers with employers throughout the Americas. Cherise has her Master's from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and has worked in communications for almost a decade. She is proud of her Latina (Mexican) heritage, and enjoys being an influencer among diverse job seekers across the country.