Dismantling Barriers to Career Advancement for Latinos

September 16, 2021


During September 15 - October 15, LinkedIn recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month in the US, a time to celebrate the stories and rich cultures of Latino communities, while driving meaningful conversations about Latino + Hispanic professionals in the workplace. As a Latina, raised by a single mother with limited access to educational and financial resources, this topic is incredibly important and personal to me. It serves as an opportunity to not only honor the history and adversity we’ve had to overcome but to also come together and continue driving awareness around the unique experiences that impact our community. This is true especially now as about half of Hispanic adults (49%) say they or someone in their household has experienced job loss, a layoff or a cut in pay due to the impact of the pandemic. 

When I first started my professional career, I always wondered why I had to fit myself into a box. Was it my big curly hair, my caramel skin, my New York-Latina accent, was I just not good enough? For years, I would only go to interviews with my hair straightened, and when I got the job, I’d continue to wear my hair in this way so as to appear more “professional” as I thought at the time. I thought once folks got to know me, my big, curly hair wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t be judged for my differences.

However, I’ve learned over the years that being different was how I’ve been able to overcome adversity, leave an impression, and create change in my workplace. I started to embrace my hair, the color of my skin, my culture, my high-on-life energy that seemed to be too much for some, and all my superpowers that made me uniquely me. All of these characteristics are part of me, and how I have chosen to self identify on LinkedIn. 

As we continue to acknowledge and celebrate our differences, it’s also important to create spaces that amplify our voices and address the obstacles Latinos continue to face in the workplace today. 

New data from LinkedIn sheds light on the challenges Latinos in the US are facing at work today, and the meaningful actions companies and allies can take to build more inclusive workplaces. Despite the advances we’ve made to create more inclusive workplaces, Latinos still continue to face unique barriers and challenges in the workplace. 60% of Latino professionals aged 18-34 feel they have been overlooked or intentionally passed by for career advancement opportunities (e.g., promotion/pay raise) because of their race and nearly 1 in 2 (44%) Latino professionals have faced blatant discrimination and/or microaggressions at work. It’s imperative now more than ever to create truly inclusive workplaces that honor our authentic selves. 

Based on our survey data, here are some of the best ways companies and colleagues can support Latino employees at work:  

Acknowledge the Depth and Breadth of Latino Cultures

73% of Latinos ages 18-34 believe that a person’s skin tone impacts their career progression and 65% of Latinos with darker skin complexions feel like they have been overlooked for career advancement. These factors have lead to high attrition rates of Latino employees in the workplace, with 37% currently thinking about leaving their current job due to lack of recognition/acknowledgment of their work (54%), lack of growth or advancement opportunities (44%), and lack of leadership who look like them and share similar experiences (31%). 

Latinos are not a monolith and have deep and rich cultures that extend beyond one standard. Companies and colleagues who acknowledge diversity among Latinos are on the path to creating inclusive workplaces where all feel they belong.

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Be Intentional and Inspire Action 

Given recent events with the Black Lives Matter movement, 66% of Latino professionals say they would be more interested in working for an organization that makes a public commitment for equity and racial justice. But statements alone are not enough. While 87% of Latino professionals believe diversity, equity and inclusion are important to their senior leaders, half (50%) still reported feeling that their place of work lacks a nurturing environment for employees that look like them. It’s critical that these commitments are sustained beyond the period of impact, and that we see continued action past moments-in-time like Hispanic Heritage Month.

Don’t Create Division, Create Cultures of Inclusivity

Of Latino professionals who have strong accents, 89% have felt overlooked for career advancement. Having a New York-Latina accent myself, I’ve felt the pressure early in my career of thinking I needed to tone it down to fit in with corporate cultures enough to advance in my career. 

Committing to creating spaces where Latino employees can bring their whole selves to work is only the beginning, and only scratches the surface in the actual work needed to make employees feel like they belong. This is reflected by the fact that more than half (51%) of Latino professionals believe that their workplace talks a lot about creating a more diverse workplace, but doesn't make any material changes to policies or culture to make it happen. To make the change happen,it's up to leadership to build a culture of belonging that weaves through every part of the business inspiring inclusivity within the DNA of the company. 

At LinkedIn our Employee Resource Group, Hispanics of LinkedIn Alliance (HOLA), is only one of the many forums Latinos feel empowered to step into their greatness. LinkedIn leadership promotes growth, inclusion, and equity in all areas of workplace life. 

I look back at my life and I am proud of the hurdles I have overcome to be where I am standing today. I feel it is my duty to share my story and create dialogue around the experiences of Latinos at work, everywhere. I am fortunate to be part of an organization where my voice is truly heard and valued. At LinkedIn, our vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. We are responsible for intentionally addressing equity and inclusion both within our workforce and for our millions of members and customers. We hope these research insights help spark conversations that lead to meaningful change.