In honor of Black History Month, we will be discussing a particularly marginalized group in Corporate America: Afro-Latinos. While the term Afro-Latino is still relatively new in academia, it is an identity claimed by millions of people throughout the world. Yet, their unique reality is under-discussed and under-researched. What can companies do to address Afro-Latino inclusion within their organizations?
The Hispanic identity is multifaceted and complex, with many other identities intersecting with it. One of these intersecting identities is the Afro-Latino identity. One quarter of all U.S. Latinos are Afro-Latino – that’s over 15 million people. Yet, Afro-Latinos are often overlooked in the general discourse surrounding Hispanic representation, especially in Corporate America. Today, we will explore what companies can do to prioritize Afro-Latino inclusion within their organizations.
Ensure you have Afro-Latino role models
An organization’s leaders often set the tone for how effective their diversity and inclusion initiatives will be. Although many corporate leaders understand the value of such initiatives, many corporations lack Afro-Latino representation in their executive ranks. The 2019 HACR STEM report identified this lack of diverse role models as one of the main contributors to the leaky pipeline phenomenon in Corporate America. Research has long shown that employees of all racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds feel that sharing characteristics with supervisors and leaders are important prerequisites to entering their social networks. That is to say, without Afro-Latino role models, Afro-Latino employees will struggle to see themselves as leaders in their organizations or gain access to support networks that help provide opportunities for advancement.
Provide access to mentorship and sponsorship programs
For any forward-thinking employee, effective mentorship and sponsorship programs are crucial. Mentorship programs connect individuals with others who can provide advice, feedback, and coaching while sponsorship programs enable individuals in positions of authority to exert their influence with intention, preparing others for high-level roles. In the 2020 HACR Empow(h)er™ Report, almost half of participants reported not participating in their company’s formal mentorship and sponsorship programs. Of those that did not participate, 25 percent indicated they did not participate because they did not know such programs existed, while 22 percent reported not participating because such programs were not offered at their level. Diverse leaders can serve as advocates for the effective implementation of mentorship and sponsorship programs, helping to ensure that Afro-Latinos are afforded equal opportunities. Not all role models, however, have to be diverse. White allies are also needed to help open career doors for underrepresented employees. Having leaders that are not only diverse but also accessible should be a critical component of any organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Implement hiring practices that are inclusive of Afro-Latinos
This may seem obvious, but meaningful Hispanic inclusion demands that Corporate America continuously evaluate the processes and systems they have in place to recruit and retain talent. That means tracking intersecting identities, like the Afro-Latino identity. Tracking organizational demographics allows companies to evaluate employment trends, goals, and outcomes, as well as help determine the health of a company’s diverse leadership pipeline. It’s also important to involve Afro-Latinos in the hiring process. After all, if you want more diversity you need to have diverse employees doing the interviewing as well. What’s more, ensuring that all hiring managers and internal recruiters receive training in topics like unconscious bias and interviewing candidates of color is a big step in ensuring your company is putting its best foot forward from the get-go. Talent acquisition practices at the executive level are equally as important. Eighty-seven percent of participants in the 2020 HACR Corporate Inclusion Index survey reported requiring recruiters to present diverse slates when hiring for executive and/or board positions. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent racial equity issues have highlighted the many disparities communities of colors face and how Corporate America needs diverse leadership to help see it through these difficult times.
Work with Afro-Latino suppliers
Although many companies recognize that supplier diversity is a business imperative, there remains much work to be done. According to the 2020 HACR Corporate Inclusion Index report, little has changed regarding Hispanic supplier spend and representation since 2009. The report found that Hispanic supplier representation accounted for less than one percent of all suppliers (.83 percent to be exact), while 61 percent of companies reported spending less than one percent of their total spend with Hispanic suppliers. What does this mean for Afro-Latinos? By failing to provide opportunities to Afro-Latino-owned businesses and suppliers, Corporate America is missing an opportunity to stimulate economic development in their communities. Companies have the opportunity to leverage internal network resources (like ERGs) to unlock competitive advantages for themselves as well as for Afro-Latino-owned businesses.
Invest in Afro-Latino communities
A company’s philanthropic efforts reflect their commitment to a particular cause. In fact, there is a growing body of research that links talent retention to corporations’ commitment and investment in communities. For example, a 2019 study found that employees who participated in a workplace giving and employer-supported volunteering program were 2.3 times more likely to say they would be with their employer in two years. The same study found that companies that were the most effective at community investment were 3.1 times more likely to believe their community investment teams were setup to innovate, 2.5 times more likely to “incorporate social objectives explicitly as part of the company’s mission or purpose statement,” and 2.4 times more likely to “incorporate their community investment as part of the broader company strategy.” This means companies that effectively work with and mobilize their internal support networks often have a better understanding of where resources are most needed, making their investment more impactful. Working with your organization’s Hispanic ERG to identify Afro-Latino organizations and initiatives can help build goodwill, trust, and brand recognition.
Diversity and inclusion is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant learning, development, and commitment to equity. Afro-Latinos face a unique reality, one that needs to be explored and represented. Fifty-six percent of non-white Latinos report regularly or occasionally experiencing discrimination due to their race or ethnicity. Corporate America can help ensure that Afro-Latinos are seen and heard by fostering an environment of openness and inclusion in the workplace. It’s only by understanding and recognizing one another’s diverse experiences and unique realities, that we can fully illuminate the path to inclusion.
Interested in learning more about the Afro-Latino identity? Here are some additional resources:
Jimenez Roman, Miriam, and Juan Flores. 2010. The Afro-Latin@ Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Dzidzienyo, Anani, and Suzanne Oboler. 2005. Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Did you know that HACR’s very own CEO, Cid Wilson, was the nation’s first Afro-Latino CEO of any national Hispanic organization?