It is a well known fact that communities of color felt the brunt of the effects of COVID-19. According to research from the CDC, death rates among communities of color were higher than for white people across all age groups. More specifically, Hispanic and Latino have endured higher infection rates than any other racial or ethnic group and have experienced higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths exceeded only by Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
The crisis didn’t stop there. The pandemic exacerbated long-standing inequities that block women of color from receiving access to affordable care, education and quality jobs. Pre-pandemic, Latinas in the U.S. were paid 45 percent less than their white male counterparts.
Throughout the last 18 months, Hispanic youth have dropped out of school and left the workforce in droves. According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, with unemployment rates up, a lack of resources to pay for childcare and the loss of loved ones, Hispanic women and girls are increasingly faced with becoming primary caregivers or providers to their loved ones.
As a society, we must rewrite the infrastructure for childcare and create a new playbook that supports women, especially women of color, in the workplace. Childcare is not a woman’s problem, but instead, it should be a motivating factor for all work environments to reexamine their existing systems. That way when a global crisis like a pandemic happens, young women, moms and people of color are not the first to lose income or be forced out of their jobs.
We have to stop looking at diverse groups as “other.” Here’s how companies and senior management can support and expedite bringing women of color, specifically Latina women and mothers, back into the workplace.
Acknowledging There’s a Problem
The numbers don’t lie. The current workplace model is not built in a way that allows Latinas to thrive. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Hispanic women have faced a steeper decline in employment (‑21 percent) throughout COVID-19 than other demographics of women and men. Within the workplace, 77 percent of Latinos say they feel the need to repress parts of their identity and feel like they can’t be themselves.
First, we must acknowledge the systemic bias that exists and that the current infrastructure is not built to create equitable spaces for Latinas. We must examine what vital resources are absent to hire and maintain this demographic in the workplace.
In a recent FQ virtual lounge on intersectionality and Latinx identity, when asked about Latinx identity and stereotypes, Patricia Mota, the President & CEO for Hispanic Alliance of Career Enhancement (HACE), said “Society and media has shaped us to believe we are not diverse and we are very monolithic.”
As employers, it is essential that we engage with Latinas, specifically moms, in the workplace and adapt flexible workplace policies like childcare subsidies, paid sick days, referrals for fertility and adoption services and paid family leave. In our multicultural society, elevating the multidimensional aspects of the workplace are paramount in order to create sustainable efforts into the future.
Active and Engaged Listening
When it comes to inclusion, the best place companies can start is by listening. In our recent virtual Equality Lounge at the FQ called The Great Returnship–Creating the New Workplace, Jo Cronk, the president of Whalar, said “Listen to what your team is saying. Listen to what they’re not saying. Take the time to connect. Be aware. Listen actively. The rules are changing all the time and we need to be agile and mobile.”
If hiring managers and senior leadership want to hire and retain Latinas in the workplace, a great way to start is by listening to their needs. The only way to create policies that reflect Latinas’ needs is to pass the mic and allow them to lead the conversation.
As Claudia Romo Edelman of We Are All Human said in an FQ Equality Lounge, “We are massive. We are powerful. We are 19 percent of the population…. People don’t know enough or value enough what the Latino contribution is.”
Radical and Intentional Action
Diverse talent (i.e. moms, people of color, people with disabilities, etc) requires flexibility. They need to see that you are prioritizing them not just with words but with action. Employers should offer full access to benefits, flexibility to care for others, equitable pay and room for growth.
Leaders across every industry should be taking action to ensure that Latinas are not only hired and given flexible benefits but supported once they get there. This could look like mentorship programs designed to pair Latinas in the workplace with senior management who can mentor them. Pair the executive who is a mom of three kids with the young mom entering the workforce so she can act as a sounding board and ally.
Ana Ceppi of Edelman shared in a recent Equality Lounge called “The Vibrancy of Hispanic Culture in the U.S.” that, “As soon as I find a Latina who knows that she has a voice, I say “vamanos. Let’s go.” We travel in twos. We don’t travel [alone] anymore. It could be someone two generations ahead of me or two generations behind me. There is strength in numbers.”
There is much work to be done, but together we can change the future of the workplace to elevate and empower women and to create a more equitable workplace for Latinas. Latinas are massive contributors to American society, and it’s about time that the workplace reflected that.
We each have a pivotal part to play in ensuring that Latina women are seen and heard in the U.S. labor force. As Edelman shared, “America is made of stars. Hispanics are one of them.”
This article was originally published on The Female Quotient.
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