Latinas in the workplace

Latinas In The Workplace: Do We Have Allies?

It can be challenging for Latinas in the workplace, especially in corporate America. As I was helping one of my family members deliver 12 heavy boxes to a meeting, where my family member worked as a professional, a person from the meeting looked at me– as I was placing the boxes onto the table and said,

“Gracias.”

In a heavy English American accent.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

Afterwards, I wondered, just because I have a darker complexion, this doesn’t mean that I don’t speak English or that I wouldn’t be able to understand a simple “Thank you.” Which, no one else in the meeting had expressed. I wondered how Latinas in this workplace including Black women and other self-identifying women of color might be experiencing ’microaggressions’.

This is known as an unconscious bias and a micro-aggression. There are different types of microaggressions. All can be intentional or unintentional. Verbal, a derogatory phrase. Behavioral, through actions and mannerisms. And Environmental, such as the lack of representation, and diversity in a company, or being the only Person Of Color in the room.

A similar situation happened to Talia Fox, the CEO of KUSI Global, a holder of a BA and MA in Psychology, and a Harvard fellow. Where she was one of the main speakers at a major keynote event, being one of the few who were leading the tenure professors. When she was coming out of the bathroom, a professor approached her and began asking questions and directing her to the cleaning supplies for the bathroom– even handing her a bag of trash.

“This is a really complicated thing for me because I also don’t want to diminish how important that work is. I think it is really important work. But, it was an extreme unconscious bias. I was dressed up in a suit, I had my pearls on. I was confused about, ‘Oh, did I look too casual, did I look like I was cleaning the bathrooms?’ Talia Fox said in a previous podcast interview I had co-hosted at Latinitas Magazine, a former partner of BoldLatina.

According to Diversity Wins by McKinsey & Company, around a third of 1,000 companies from 15 different countries, in various economic sectors, increased in representation, and diversity. Those that had the greatest increase in diversity, saw an overall outperformance of 48% compared to the least diverse companies.

Not only does the progress towards diversity and representation yield a more profitable result, but it is needed to combat the way-too-common microaggressions and biases taking place in the offices.

Latinas in the workplace

“With White employees, particularly White men, dominating leadership positions, Thomas says this lack of allyship makes it difficult for Black women and Latinas to advance in their careers,” as stated in CNBC. Only around 19% of Latinas, and 10% of Black Women would say they feel supported by their White co-workers. For this percentage to increase, White Allies in the workplace need to show an appreciation of work done by their Latina, Black, and POC co-workers. White Allies need to demonstrate inclusion by allowing them proper time to speak in meetings, asking for their ideas and opinions on work or projects, and acknowledging their feedback by putting them into motion. Being kind, understanding, and professional, will not only lead to a positive work atmosphere, but it would give the feeling of importance, and valued work.

A couple of ways companies can begin increasing representation and diversity is by;

Taking a holistic approach to job applications. Encouraging applicants who are missing out on one or two qualifications but with relevant enough, and equivalent experience to apply. Since the effects of systemic racism and inequality can cause them to be discouraged, or miss out on specific qualifications. An example would be a job description asking for some college experience, which an applicant may not yet have, but instead have a year worth of internship experience in the related field.

Addressing a zero-tolerance discrimination policy and encouraging an open, and safe environment for workers to feel comfortable enough with communicating about microaggressions, unconscious biases, and any negative incidents that is taking place at work.

Hiring a Leadership Strategist in Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion to put together programs, and plans, to diversify representation in the workplace. Or taking related courses by partnering with a business that specializes in professional development, management, and leadership, such as KUSI Global, Inc.

Making sure Equality and Equity is being reflected in the numbers. As stated in The Atlantic, Black women make 65 cents, Latina women make 54 cents, and White women make 79 cents compared to every dollar White men make at work. And even though 87% of companies state that they are committed to making representation and diversity a priority at work, their employees have shown to be less likely to deem that their companies are actually committed to making it a priority. As further stated in, Diversity Wins by McKinsey & Company: How Inclusion Matters.

Real work needs to be implemented into workplace culture and strategy in order to see the long awaited progress towards equality and success in various sectors of diversity and representation across the board.

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Angelique Hechavarria is a Freelance Writer for various publications, including BoldLatina. In her free time, she blogs on Medium, where she was awarded as a Top Writer in Travel and Culture. Growing up in a Cuban-Colombian household, she hopes to use her love for her heritage to write about different topics that pertain to Latin American culture.