Too Latina for the C-Suite?

A new publication by the Center for Talent Innovation confirms what many of us who work in the field of diversity and inclusion have sensed for a long time.  Being Latina or Latino in corporate America comes at a steep price.  The higher up you go, the harder it is to be your authentic self. 

According to CTI’s  report, 43% of Latinas and 33% of Latinos say they must compromise their authenticity to follow their company’s standards for executive presence.  So what does that mean?  Pronounce your name as if it was meant to be spoken in English.   Change your name to be less ethnic.  Don’t talk about your childhood and where you grew up.  Don’t speak about your heritage.  Minimize your values regarding family, community or collaboration---in order to be seen as competitive, assertive, or focused.   At the very extreme, I’ve seen Latinos actually collude with those who speak poorly about immigrants or denigrate Mexico or Latin America economies in general.

This report comes at a crucial time for the nation's major employers. Acceptance of a new generation of Latinos entering the workforce must be a priority for any company seeking a competitive advantage.  Latinos are now approaching 18% of the population.  By 2060, Latinos will comprise one third of the US.  Each year 800,000 Latinos turn 18 and we will continue to be an increasing share of the nation’s workforce.  By 2025--- just 9 years away---we will be 20% of the US workforce.  It’s a national tragedy that just 3% of all executives across all sectors are Latina and among the Fortune 500, there are less than 40 Latinas serving as Board members. 

Many companies are focused on reducing the consequences of unconscious bias and developing inclusive leadership skills. This is half the battle. While that takes place, Latinas and Latinos who are now in leadership roles need a unifying message around the remarkable benefits we bring to the workplace.  For some of us, this effort may require reducing the impact of the biases we grew up hearing about ourselves.  For others it is about being bold. Yes, we actually do bring values and work ethics that define the entrepreneurial spirit that many companies want in order to be innovative.  Yes, we value family time and celebrate life—the work life blend that we know makes workers healthy and productive.  Yes, Latinos use “we” more often than “I” when we talk about achievements—a mindset that is fundamental to team work. 

Let’s stop minimizing who we are for the sake of “fitting in”.  Let’s stand together to recognize that the many cultures we have throughout the Americas bring this nation something valuable for every C-suite, every board room.