The Slowly Closing Gap: What’s Really Keeping Women and LatinX Out of the Corner Office?

As the world emerges from the largest global health crisis of a generation, there’s a curve that many people aren’t talking about.

Because despite Hispanics projected to make up more than 51% of the workforce by 2050 – there’s a lack of representation in one of the places that matter the most: Executive Leadership.

Recent studies from IBM, the Rockefeller Institute, and Harvard Business Review all shed light on a growing disparity that seems to be getting worse before it is getting better.

The diversity conversation is not a new one as companies – around the world – are rapidly increasing their diversity and inclusion spend each year. In the United States alone, approx. $8 billion is spent each year on diversity training. And, among the S&P 500, surveys have shown that 234 of these companies have established a diversity manager or leadership level position.         

With this level of investment and training, companies are making noticeable progress in promoting and hiring LatinX and women at the middle manager and junior manager levels. However, the growing trend has yet to make its way to the board room. Because despite the conscious effort being made, less than 4% of executive level positions are filled by someone from the LatinX community and less than 1% of these positions are held by Latinas.

So, the question must become: what is really holding women and LatinX from stepping into leadership roles?

As a Latina who has worked for over 25+ years in Fortune 500 companies, including as a Senior Executive, there are 4 key areas of concern that need to be addressed:

  1. Subconscious biases – Diversity initiatives must move beyond just hiring. There are often a host of other biases that may be built into the corporate hierarchy that make it hard for women and LatinX leaders to advance. As humans, it’s natural to gravitate toward people that we share common interests with – and this also extends to common cultural experiences. It’s this propensity to want to surround ourselves with people who ‘look’ like us that could be perpetuating the lack of diversity at the executive level that has always been heavily white male dominated.

  2. Emotional isolation – Being a leader has it’s own pressures and challenges, not to mention being a leader in an organization where you may be the only or one of few LatinX. We all, even at work, want to feel like we are part of a larger community that accepts, supports, and encourages us. However, all too often women and LatinX leaders feel isolated from the white male majority and many resort to ‘code switching’ as a means to fit in. Imagine the emotional and mental exhaustion this can lead to when you believe that to advance you have to be someone that you are not. It is this perception that they are “not good enough” as their authentic self that is contributing to many diverse leaders not advancing in their career or applying for next level promotions because they either believe that they lack the necessary skills or they don’t have the unshakable confidence they need to lead their organizations.

  3. Rigid corporate structure – Corporations are built by hierarchies that are very slow to change and adapt to societal pressures. One way this is seen is through outdated skills, years of experience, or educational requirements that naturally exclude a large part of the diverse workforce population. As women and LatinX professionals have been appointed to middle manager positions, it may take another 10-20 years before we finally see a shift in the upper and senior management levels. That is unless corporations are willing to be more open-minded about what the ‘ideal’ executive leader looks like and the background they come from. As we have seen with the 2020 elections of 23 women into various Congressional level positions (the first time in history) – leaders can be highly qualified even if their rise to leadership doesn’t look like the ‘norm’.

 

  1. Lack of leadership coaching – Recent research has shown that even when women are overly-qualified for a position, many still do not apply. This often comes back to limiting beliefs that they have around their abilities, but it also can be traced back to a lack of coaching and mentorship. Less than 34% of LatinX professionals say they have access to leadership coaching while studies have found that when women and diverse communities have role models in higher level positions, they are 3x more likely to apply for leadership positions. This is why representation at all levels is so important. Women and LatinX leaders need to know that there is a clear path for their advancement and that they’ll be welcomed with faces that look like theirs when they reach executive circles.

So, what can corporations really do to address the diverse leadership gap?

One thing is for sure: diversity and inclusion is not only about who you hire. It’s also about who you mentor, coach, and how you create environments that are culturally sensitive to the challenges that diverse leaders face. It is by being willing to have the hard conversations and being open to a new way of approaching the topic that will truly move the needle.

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Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your feedback and future topics you’d like me to feature.

To find out more about the work I do, visit www.arboledacoaching.com  or message me here on LinkedIn.  If  you’d like to learn more about how I can help you own your voice, take control over your career, be empowered and ready to accelerate your success on your terms, book a call at https://calendly.com/arboledacoaching/30-min-intro-call