Latinos Are Transforming Industry, but Much Better Representation Is Needed
Wielding an astonishing $1.5 trillion of annual purchasing power, Latinos are profoundly reshaping U.S. consumer trends.
Yet, according to a panel of successful Latina women at a recent Bloomberg Hispanic Heritage Month event in New York, much remains to be done to improve their influence and growth in the workforce.
“Our industry is slow at attending to the needs of Latinos,” Sonia Dula, a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said. “I don’t think our sector has fully developed. There is a clear recognition that we need to better mirror our customer base.”
A huge opportunity is available to businesses that convert their thinking, begin to take diversity seriously, and realign their approach with the reality of the nation’s shifting demographics.
Employer focus: Better targeting and hiring
Companies also need to consider the subtleties of working with and selling to different Latino subcommunities, including male and female Latinos, and Latinos of different ages or with particular interests. Many businesses, panelists said, are failing not only at reaching Latinos broadly, but also in these specific segments.
“There’s a certain laziness in how they’re targeting the Latin market, particularly when you look at the impact we have,” said panelist Lucinda Martinez, senior VP of multicultural and international marketing at TV station HBO.
“Businesses know how to sell to the soccer mom or the mom who works, and so on, but then they leave the Latina sector on the table,” Martinez added. “Looking at small businesses and how Latina women are driving growth—it is astounding from a strategy point of view to be missing this segment.”
The good news is that companies across multiple industries are striving to develop a more diverse workforce. And the results are beginning to show: Between 1990 and 2014, the number of Hispanics in the civilian workforce more than doubled from 10.7 million to 25.4 million—more than ten times the rate of increase of non-Latinos—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the financial industry, Deloitte Tax is transforming how it works with people of different backgrounds—an effort spearheaded by one of its Latino partners, Jorge Caballero. The company believes diversity of thought will serve as a crucial factor in its growth and focuses on building collaboration and trust between people of all backgrounds, fostering an open discussion in which differences are valued and capitalized upon for growth. Last year, two-thirds of the company’s hires were women or minorities.
Bloomberg also believes a diverse workforce is a crucial factor in its success. During the event’s opening keynote, chairman Peter Grauer stressed the company’s commitment to building a diverse and inclusive environment: “We recognize that change requires action, and we continue to work with business managers to make sure Latinos are included in the leadership dialogue,” he said. “We know that building strong and diverse teams in which members feel valued and engaged will help us innovate, execute and succeed.”
Other industries have their own necessarily unique approach. CBS Entertainment, for example, regularly reaches out to different communities of young people. “There is such an underrepresentation of Latinos behind the camera, in the writer’s room and in executive ranks,” said Nina Tassler, a former chairman of the company, during the event’s panel session. “We created a CBS On Tour program which took executives into the community. We identified the kids interested in a career in media and entertainment at an early age so that later they could come to CBS. Outreach is very important: instead of waiting for the talent to come to you, you can go out and recruit them.”
Employee focus: Embracing self-identity
Panelists’ advice for individuals who encounter such job opportunities: Be daring. And draw belief from role models in the industry.
“The problem for many of us is that we turn away from opportunities when they take us out of our comfort zone,” said Dula. “We often think we cannot do something. We need to go in the direction of fear and jump off at the deep end. It works itself out: If you have a work ethic, relate to people, and know what differentiates you, you’re not going to be alone.”
This self-awareness and pride enables individuals to grow into different jobs and even different industries, added Martinez. “You need to know what you bring to a job, such as being a problem solver, or being good at motivating teams.”
Dula said, for example, her love of playing guitar and singing, shared openly with colleagues, became a personal trademark and made her memorable inside the industry.
Across sectors, Latinos are having a huge impact. Concluding the Bloomberg event, Erika Irish Brown, the company’s head of diversity and inclusion, noted that a large number of Latino leaders “from a global and local level” had made time to attend. “This is proof that our community has grown to be the force that can fill this room tonight,” she said.
Business dialog in all industries needed to reflect this influence, Brown concluded. “Our difference is our strength. Diversity changes the conversation, and all of you have a responsibility to change the conversation – and to find other people below and above you to continue to change the conversation.”