Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation

Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 with President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded under President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to a full 30 days.  This year’s theme is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” and the workplace is a great place to start.

76 percent of Latinx people feel uncomfortable being their authentic selves at their companies and often modify their appearance, body language, and communication style as a result, according to a recent study. This is an opportunity for companies to change.  Building an inclusive culture within the workplace builds more than just a stronger organization, it builds a culture that can go out into communities and enact real change.

DEI is a foundational value for Forrest Solutions. This year’s theme of “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” is set to encourage each other to listen and appreciated voices from the Hispanic community. We spoke with our SVP of Learning, Development and Diversity, Jose Cruz to learn about his life, his pride, and his community. Here is what he had to say:

“My parents are proud to be Hispanic. My mother comes from a small town in Spain called Nerva in the southern region of Andalucia. Fun fact? My mom was Miss Spain in 1967! My father is from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico and came from a family of 9 brothers and sisters. My father was in the Army and was an airplane engineer and my mother was a seamstress by trade and retired as a manager of a garment factory. Pride was never an issue in our home as I was taught to love and embrace our heritage.

We moved to the US when I was five years old and in the neighborhood I grew up in there weren’t too many people that looked like us. During the day, I was learning English and at night, Spanish was spoken in the home. As I grew up and experienced grade school and high school in a small suburb in Cleveland, I didn’t experience any Latinx people in my schools. What I realized was that there were segregated neighborhoods of Latinx, Polish, African American, etc. At a young age, I started going to the Puerto Rican parade – OH MY GOODNESS! The food, the people, the music, the dancing and most importantly, the JOY! As Latinx people, we love having fun and it’s centered around our family and friends.

I share this context because from a young age, I was taught to embrace my heritage and culture which created an immense confidence within myself. Since I entered the workforce, especially in a corporate environment, I recognize all Latinx coworkers. Could you imagine not being able to be yourself at work? To be asked to speak in a manner that sounded ‘less Hispanic’? To dress in a style that you made you blend in?  As a proud Latinx American, I ask you to be an ally. Be inclusive. Embrace all cultures. Learn from your diversified coworkers.

As Latinx people acculturate into our American culture, we must embrace and always be proud of our Hispanic heritage. I am PROUD to being an American, but it doesn’t undercut my love for being Spanish and Puerto Rican!”

Listening to voices within the community, and truly making an effort to increase understanding and inclusivity makes our whole nation stronger. Working to identify ways to enhance our workplace through diversity, equity, and inclusion can help with this. As Hispanic Heritage Month continues on, here are several helpful tips to creating a workplace that fosters innovation, collaboration, partnership, and most of all, inclusivity.

Enhance Your Hiring and Leaderships:

 In 2022, Hispanic people made up roughly 18% of the workforce. That means about 1 in 5 working people identified as Hispanic. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of Hispanic workers is projected to increase from 29 million people to 35.9 million people. The growth is there, but diversity at the top remains stagnant. Only 4% of U.S. companies’ executive leadership identify as Hispanic and over half of Latinx professionals in the office said they do not have a professional mentor that looks like them. Companies that are committed to creating an inclusive workplace must also be committed to inclusive hiring practices and opportunities for growth. However, in many instances, organizations fall short.

Embrace Hispanic Culture:

 Hispanic culture is one of the deepest, richest cultures found in the United States. From incredible music, authors, inspiring political leaders, and deliciously decadent food, there is no shortage of history and culture to celebrate throughout Hispanic Heritage Month this year. However, more than half of Hispanic women (53%) and 44% of Hispanic men say that their company is defined by conforming to traditionally white, male standards. By taking steps in creating initiatives to celebrate Hispanic culture, Latinx professionals may feel less obligated to repress their true selves while in the workplace. In order to foster a culture of inclusivity, organizations should be open to taking time to learn about and celebrate existing cultures of the professionals already in the office.

Advance DEI Within the Company:

 Creating and maintaining diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in your workplace leads to increased employee retention, helps you attract talent, and fosters a healthier culture for your business, but people of color and specifically Latinx professionals believe that organizations aren’t moving the needle far enough when it comes to DEI initiatives. Over half (51%) of Latinx professionals believe that their workplace talks about creating a diverse workplace, but never follows through on implementing any real initiatives. When 37% of Latinx professionals in the workplace are actively considering leaving their current jobs due to lack of inclusivity, there becomes a responsibility on organizations to change.