The Evolving Role of Latinas in the Workplace

By: Rohini Anand
Oct 12, 2016 3:40 PM ET
Rohini Anand, PhD SVP, Corporate Responsibility & Global Chief Diversity Officer Sodexo

The Evolving Role of Latinas in the Workplace

September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the progress Latinas have made in the workplace. Compared to previous generations, today’s Latinas tend to be more educated, empowered, independent and comfortable putting themselves at the center of life decisions.  

Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace, where Latinas are making extraordinary advancements.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas’ share of the labor force nearly doubled over the last 20 years.  And by 2022, Latinas are projected to account for 17.3 percent of the female labor force and 8.1 percent of the total labor force.  Taking a closer look, Latinas have raised their representation between 30 and 40 percent in teaching, law, medicine, and management professions over the last decade.

While Latinas are making strides, they remain underrepresented across all professions, and they’re barely present at the level of CEO or boards of major companies.

Given Latinas’ significant role in the current and future U.S. workforce, employers can benefit by supporting and cultivating them. Many savvy employers are already offering resources to help Latinas develop and advance in the workplace.

Sodexo was proud to be recognized by LATINA Style on their 2016 list of the top 50 companies that support programs that encourage training, mentorship, and promote Latinas within the company. Here are some best practices:

Facilitating Mentorship and Sponsorship

Many Latinas are “firsts.” Whether they were the first in their family to go to college or the first to have a leadership role in a major U.S. company, many Latinas rarely have the informal career advisers that others take for granted. Mentorship and sponsorship programs can help Latinas navigate their profession or workplace environment. Partnering with mentors gives Latinas access to informal networks and opportunities to interact with a broader range of colleagues. Mentors and sponsors can also be instrumental in helping Latinas understand what is required to advance in the workplace.

Promoting Authenticity and Eliminating “Covering”

According to a recent study by Working Mother Research Institute, Latinas “who feel they can be their authentic selves at work are more satisfied with their current jobs, are more excited to go to work every day, would recommend their employers as great places to work, and are willing to put in above-and-beyond effort than those who don’t feel they can be authentic.”

Fostering an environment that promotes authenticity allows Latinas to be themselves in the workplace. Workplaces where Latinas feel they can express their views and opinions freely are at less risk of seeing diminished engagement, lower productivity and flight risk.

Narrowing Opportunity Gaps

Latinas in the workplace are eager for increased opportunities and responsibilities.  Access to training and development programs, succession planning, career coaching and counseling and affinity groups are proven strategies for supporting career paths of Latinas in the workplace.  The more Latinas are supported and given the necessary resources for career growth, the more likely they are to be engaged and remain with their employers for the long-term.

Are you actively supporting the Latinas in your workplace? Or are you a Latina who would like to see more programs such as these?  Tell us about it in the comments.