Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor the diverse, talented, and hard-working professionals in the Hispanic community. It’s not only about celebration, however. It also provides an opportunity to consider the full picture for Hispanics in today’s workforce, and how we can all work to advocate for a more inclusive workplace.
The Growing Hispanic Labor Force
According to the Department of Labor, the number of Hispanic workers in the U.S. labor force has grown significantly over the last few decades: from 10.7 million in 1990 to 29.0 million in 2020 today, and projected to reach 35.9 million in 2030. Correspondingly, Hispanics’ proportion of the workforce has more than doubled over the same period, increasing from 8.5% in 1990 to 18.0% in 2020. By 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics that Hispanics will comprise 21.2% of the whole American workforce.
The industries with the highest proportions of Hispanic employees are as follows:
- Farming, fishing and forestry: 43.0%
- Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance: 37.9%
- Construction and extraction: 35.7%
- Food preparation and serving: 27.3%
- Transportation and material moving: 23.9%
As these numbers show, Hispanics remain overrepresented in “service” occupations, but that’s not the only place they’re having an impact: Hispanic employees make up 10.7% of those in management jobs, notably up from 5.2% in 2000.
Hispanics are also growing their entrepreneurial presence. As of 2022, there were approximately 4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. This represents significant growth: the number of Hispanic business owners has grown 34% over the last decade.
The Hispanic Workplace Experience
Even as these advancements are made, Hispanics still face a number of obstacles on their career paths – and those challenges can vary depending on a number of factors. The Hispanic community is not homogenous, and individuals will have very different career experiences based on factors such as gender, national origin, and colorism. Research has shown, for instance, that Hispanic individuals in the U.S. who are of Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran descent face higher wage gaps than others; Hispanic women face even larger gaps than their male counterparts. A 2017 study found that 33% of Hispanic employees say they have personally been discriminated against because of their ethnicity when applying for jobs, and 32% felt the effects of discrimination in terms of pay equity and/or being considered for promotions.
Despite the rise in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at countless companies, many Hispanic professionals feel – and have felt for years – that their unique needs are not being appropriately addressed.
One study found that that 76% of Hispanic/Latinx employees report having to spend their energy on repressing, downplaying, or modifying parts of their personas in the workplace. Employees who say that they do modify their behaviors are nearly three times as likely as to report being “promoted quickly” than their counterparts who do less to “downplay” or modify their personalities. It’s no surprise, then, that 63% of Hispanic employees reported that they do not feel truly included in their workplace culture, do not feel welcome to share their ideas, and/or do not feel confident that their ideas are truly heard and valued.
Looking to the Future
Amidst these challenges, there is plenty of work being done to make these necessary changes. 49.8% of Latinos surveyed expressed that they wanted to work or work more, in contrast with only 26.5% of non-Hispanic white respondents. Organizations like the ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals For America) are out to improve those labor market outcomes. As the first national Latino professional association in the United States, the ALPFA comprises over 100,000 100,000 professional and student members nationwide, supporting Hispanic/Latinx professionals with career development, networking, internships, mentorship, and more.
Reaching the highest career levels also seems to be a hurdle for many Hispanic professionals. 53% of Hispanic women and 44% of men say that “executive presence” at their companies is defined in ways that clearly conform to traditionally white male standards; 43% of women and 33% of men say they need to compromise their authenticity to achieve those standards. That’s why organizations like the Latino Corporate Directors Organization are working to make change. The organization’s research found that Latinos held only 2.2% of the board seats on publicly traded companies, while 76.8% of the Fortune 1000 companies had zero Latino presence on their board. In response, the organization advocates for promising talent to rise to board positions while also preparing the next generation to be even better positioned.
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the remarkable work of Hispanic professionals and those supporting their career development. At Kaizen, we are committed to recognizing and highlighting Hispanic talent and working with a wide cross-section of business and individuals to build a more inclusive future.
By Rose Dorta
Are you a high-performing leader or believe you have the potential to tackle a more challenging role? Would you be interested in career opportunities that are seeking these attributes?
I’d love to chat with you and answer any questions that you have. Email me, Rose Dorta, managing director of Kaizen HR Solutions, here.