How to Support Latinos in Their Career Goals

By Michelle Threadgould

“I feel that as a Latina, I work hard, I put in extra hours, and I am good at and committed to the work that I do, but I don’t feel like there is the possibility for upward mobility. As a millennial, I don’t feel like I’m taken seriously if I apply to jobs that are at a director level and above, so what can I do to be taken seriously, and what steps can I take to get my foot in the door?”

At the recent Hispanics in Philanthropy conference, a young woman asked this pertinent question during a panel on how to facilitate upward mobility in the Latino community.

Her question spoke to many larger issues. The Guardian recently did a study on the challenges millennials face in the workplace, and they found that, “Where 30 years ago young adults used to earn more than national averages, now in many countries they have slumped to earning as much as 20% below their average compatriot.” A combination of entering the workplace at the height of a recession, owing more student loan debt than any previous generation, and experiencing the highest real estate and rental market boom that the U.S. has seen in decades has made upward mobility amongst millennials particularly difficult.

But beyond the harsh economic realities that millennials at large face, there are also educational and workplace challenges that are very specific to Latino communities. 22% of Latinos have faced workplace discrimination, for instance, and while the percentage of Latinos graduating from college has increased from 22% to 39% over the last twenty-five years, according to CNN, the median income of Latinos “who finished college declined between 1992 and 2013.” So, while Latinos are more educated than ever before, their access to better opportunities has worsened.

So what can be done to fix this problem? At a session called “Building the Dream Team: Recruiting Diverse Talent and Navigating Career Transitions” at the HIP conference, Marsha Bonner, Director of Programs, Community Grantmaking, and Special Initiatives at the Annenberg Foundation, spoke on how nonprofits, technology companies, and leaders in their industries could make sure that their workplace was diverse, had room for advancement, and reflected the communities that they served.

Here’s some of the wisdom she and the other speakers imparted:

1. Be Intentional

Bonner recommends having an intentional agenda and mission statement with clear recruiting and job advancement goals. For instance, when recruiting, she suggested, “Advertise where you’ll get a diverse pool.” This means seeking out Latino job fairs, researching Latino college groups, and posting job opportunities on sites or nonprofits with Latino audiences, like Hispanics in Philanthropy’s job board. Once a diverse staff is hired, in order to retain your employees, she recommends creating “ladders for advancement in order to train and promote people of color to be the next CEOs of future foundations.”

2. Be a Role Model for Growth

One of the ways that Carmela Castellano-Garcia, the President and CEO of California Primary Care Association (CPCA), has worked to bridge the gap for Latinos is by prioritizing intergenerational connections with millennials. For example, she started a “diverse summer interns program” to provide people from underrepresented communities valuable experience working in the nonprofit field. Additionally, Garcia speaks and networks at college events, and “meets with leagues of people of color who want to advance.”

3. Be a Mentor

Ximena Delgado, Senior Vice President and Environmental, Social, and Governance Program Manager at Bank of America, said that one of the most important things to keep in mind when trying to recruit diverse talent is to “Be authentic. Don’t ever forget who you are. I always remember that I am an immigrant, I’m gay, and I’m a woman.” For Delgado, she understands the significance of not only representing her community, but also of reaching out to her community and nurturing relationships.

4. Give Space For Bold Ideas

Denise Clark, Senior Vice President and Strategic Philanthropy Consultant at Wells Fargo, said that when it comes to working with millennials, they often have “bold ideas.” She suggests supporting team members by encouraging these ideas, and by asking a few questions: Who is your audience? What is the value proposition? What’s the action plan?

Going through a credible challenge conversation can shore up gaps in the ideas that need some attention and, when addressed, could strengthen the proposal. It’s important team members understand that the credible challenge conversation is meant to strengthen their proposal and that they feel valued and respected throughout the process.

Beyond the excellent advice provided at the “Recruiting Diverse Talents” panel, there are a number of actions that employers can take to make for a more diverse workplace and retain top talent from within their company:

5. Offer Educational Opportunities

Paying for your employees to advance in their education and attend workshops and conferences to enhance their skills and improve their networks is one way that employers can increase employee loyalty and show that they are committed to their employees’ advancement.

6. Provide Annual Reviews

Holding quarterly or annual reviews where your employees can discuss their goals and they are given feedback and regular pay increases enables your team members to discuss challenges, improve, and advance in their line of work.

7. Promote from Within

Over time, your employees will want to switch job roles or be considered for more senior positions. Announce job opportunities internally and encourage your team members to apply for these positions. Even if the employee doesn’t seem like a direct fit, allow them to take on some responsibilities of the role that they wish to obtain, or provide them with the skills, direction, or education that they need to grow into this role.

There are many ways that organizations can foster an environment that encourages workplace advancement for Latinos. By making it your mission to diversify your workplace, provide educational opportunities, and promote from within, you can help Latinos bridge the income gap and reach their potential.

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