In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we discuss how some Hispanic executive leaders see employers' efforts to elevate Hispanic and Latinx talent
Diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) remains a priority for most employers, and it plays a key role in setting corporate strategy and talent retention initiatives. As part of these efforts, many corporations are planning events and gatherings to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. As part of the Thomson Reuters Institute’s coverage in this area, we sat down with Hispanic executive leaders to hear their perspective on how companies are elevating Hispanic and Latinx talent.
Guidance for employers
Hispanic and Latinx leaders continue to be underrepresented at the executive ranks within the accounting and legal industries. Collaboration with the National Association of Latino Professionals for America, which serves more than 100,000 professionals, and the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) are helping employers make progress, but conversations with Hispanic executives suggest additional effort is necessary.
Compare your internal Hispanic/Latinx representation and that of your customer base — More than 18% of US consumers are from Hispanic backgrounds, according to the US census. Dumitrache Martinez, chief financial officer at Kind and Nature’s Bakery, advises corporations — particularly retail companies — to have similar ranges of representation between their Latino employees and their customers.
If there is a big gap between the countries and cultures from which your customers come and internal representation at the executive level, then there is some work to do. This gap, if left unaddressed, could impact business performance and how marketing messages are created and delivered to Hispanic customers based on different uses and habits, explains Martinez.
Formally sponsor Hispanic and Latinx talent — Intentional effort to develop executive talent from Hispanic and Latinx backgrounds is required by those organizations that have a very large majority presence in the executive suites. The careers of both Martinez and Gerardo Casahonda, Senior Director for International and Indirect Tax at Thomson Reuters, both benefitted from sponsorship by non-Hispanic executives. The HNBA’s PODER25™, which seeks to increase the number of Hispanic attorneys occupying senior positions within corporate legal departments, is one example of the type of partnership in which employers can seek to partner with advocacy groups in this area.
Without intentionality, affinity bias, which causes people to gravitate toward others who appear to be like them, kicks in more often than not. Therefore, formally matching Hispanic and Latinx rising stars with executives for sponsorship helps to build bonds across differences that are not so obvious without a formal opportunity to forge a personal connection with someone from another function.
Invest in pools of talent from countries in Latin America — Casahonda indicates that the fact multiple activities of his business is done in Mexico and Costa Rica signals to employees that the company is vested in the development and advancement of talent in these locations and the communities in which these businesses operate.
Moreover, people in the US who work with people from other jurisdictions help to hone cross-cultural skills and develop future potential leaders. Indeed, all employees benefit from having diverse teammates, supervisors, and stakeholders because they are consistently working on and stress-testing key cross-cultural skills like cultural fluency, delivering and receiving feedback, effectively addressing conflict, and learning how to grow and support the development of diverse teams. These conditions are exceptional for building competent leaders of all backgrounds.
Train executives to embrace differing cultures — It is important for leaders and executives to signal proactively that different perspectives are appreciated. They can do this by proactively seeking the thoughts of others from underrepresented backgrounds. In fact, Casahonda says that individuals come to him for his views and insights because of his international work experience and his heritage outside of the US.
Advice for ambitious Latinx and Hispanic employees
In addition to investments made by employers, there are actions for both Hispanic/Latinx professionals. In fact, both Martinez and Casahonda share ways that they got ahead in their own experience and career journeys.
Hone cross-cultural leadership skills by working with others from different backgrounds — Martinez sought to work with a global company with locations in different countries to better expand his breadth of experience working with colleagues across regions. It forced him to work on his cross-cultural communication skills daily.
Improve mindset by reframing thought limitations on English as a second language — Casahonda says he once received feedback from a job interviewer that he needed to stop thinking that English was his second language. The interviewer emphasized that Casahonda should change his mindset and have confidence that he earned the interview because of his talent and be confident that his communication skills would improve over time.
Make ambitions known and seek feedback — One way to proactively communicate the desire to advance within an organization is to ask for management’s advice on what individuals need to do to get their moved up to other jobs. Casahonda sought guidance on how to get his manager’s job and followed the advice.
Of course, there is no magic formula to rise through the ranks of an organization today. It takes both the efforts of the individual and the guidance of mentors, sponsors, and managers in addition to organizational investments to advocate for rising stars and help them get the necessary experience and skills to advance. Employers taking these actions in combination with proactive action on the part of ambitious individuals increase the likelihood of improving representation of Hispanic/Latinx employees at the senior levels within the finance, accounting, and legal industries.