The United States observes Hispanic Heritage Month between September 15 and October 15 every year. It is an opportunity to celebrate and learn more about Hispanic/Latinx heritage. It is also a great opportunity to celebrate and recognize Hispanic employees while also uplifting the community through education and awareness initiatives.
Chezie recently sat down with four Latina DEIB thought-leaders to discuss how employers can authentically celebrate their Hispanic/Latinx employees all month long.
Our panelists included:
Here are a few takeaways from the conversation as well as ways to better support and celebrate Hispanic/Latinx employees this month and next month.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is a collaborative effort. During this time, Hispanic/Latinx ERGs, executive sponsors, allies, as well as other ERGs should all work together to find ways to celebrate. The responsibilities shouldn’t fall solely on the community you are uplifting. At the same time, it's important to remember that intersectionality will exist within different ERGs, as such, different communities should work together to celebrate that intersectionality.
When coordinating and planning events for Hispanic Heritage Month, ERG leaders should discuss with each other and find a space where everybody can celebrate together. For example, one leader from one group could reach out to a speaker while another can focus on preparing a space for the event. Working together not only promotes allyship, it promotes an inclusive work culture where it is standard for employees to rely on each other.
When planning for Hispanic Heritage Month, the goal is to raise awareness of issues that exist within the community but to also celebrate the culture, history, and progress made. However, you need to be mindful of what a successful event is in your view and in the view of your community.
Is success the amount of people that show up? Is success retaining members of an ERG? Is success meeting a new person? Does it mean engaging allies to listen and learn? These are important questions that you need to ask yourself in order to determine what a successful event looks like. From here, it can be easy to create programming that celebrates Hispanic/Latinx employees but also meets a particular goal/objective. It can also help you avoid overplanning.
Great programming should be intentional; it shouldn’t be based on having the best food or the best swag to hand out. Obviously, having all of those things are nice to have, however, it may be better to have smaller, more intimate events if your goal is to improve connections between different people when celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Perhaps your goal is to increase the number of people in your Latinx ERG, if so, it might be better to have something like a fireside chat, where everybody has an opportunity to talk about pressing community issues that matter to them.
Coming into the planning process with a clear objective and an idea of what success looks like can help you and your team navigate through the process of planning an impactful event.
Because being Latinx/Hispanic are ethnicities rather than races, many people who are Latinx/Hispanic also share other identities. For example, many identify as Afrolatinx because they have African roots.
Katherine, identifying as Afrolatina, struggled with this early on in her life. After moving to the United States from Panama, her skin color changed. From an early age, many stressed to her that she is simply Latina because of her lighter skin tone. According to Castro, not knowing where to belong or how to identify became a struggle. By the time she moved into corporate, she realized that there shouldn’t be a divide between both her identity as Black and Latina.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, educating people about intersecting identities is crucial as many people may not be aware that this intersectionality even exists. Partnering with different ERGs to program events centered around intersectionality can not only aid in educating your employees about it, but also celebrate and champion people’s holistic selves. In every ERG, there might be people like Katherine, who didn’t know where they belong because of how they look. Talking about intersectionality and celebrating it can provide a space for people to embrace and learn more about their own identities.
In the Latinx/Hispanic community, colorism continues to be a prevalent issue. According to Pew Research, Latinx and Hispanic people with darker skin report more discrimination than those with a lighter skin color. The complexion of different Latinx/Hispanic people can unfairly determine their success and opportunities, both in the workplace and beyond.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, creating events and conversations where colorism can be addressed is important. Even within a Latinx ERG, some individuals might not be aware of how prevalent colorism is because of their own privilege. It is an opportunity to raise awareness and mindfulness about a real issue that goes beyond racism, it is an opportunity to discuss discrimination within the Latinx/Hispanic community itself.
Having events centered on colorism can help address issues within the community but within the organization. Is colorism an issue that affects the advancement of people within the company? Does colorism affect retention within the workplace? These are important questions to ask and discuss. Remember, these events should not only celebrate Latinx/Hispanic heritage, they should also place Latinx/Hispanic employee issues on the forefront.
Finally, learning and understanding more about colorism can help people better navigate their way around their workplace. If an employee is darker skinned, your event could provide resources and tools that can help them be unapologetically vocal without fear of losing employment or missing out on career opportunities. It can also help employees who have privilege due to their skin color leverage it to support other Latinx/Hispanic employees.
As we begin celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are celebrating the cultures and contributions of our Hispanic/Latinx employees. However, this is not only a time of celebration, but also of education around issues and opportunities for the Hispanic/Latinx community. All of the events and discussions that will take place this month should always be intentional and have particular goals in mind. They should also be centered around community needs. The experiences of Latinx/Hispanic employees are not the same as everybody else. As such, organizations need to be mindful of how they’re planning, who is planning the celebrations and discussions, and the content.
The panel offered great insight on how they have created events, personal experiences on Latinx issues, and moved beyond simply planning and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Check out the full discussion here!