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Hispanic, Latino and Latina employees report pressure to assimilate at work

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A large majority of Hispanic and Latino or Latina professionals report pressure to assimilate at work and downplay aspects of their personality to succeed, according to an April 10 report from Coqual, a global think tank.

In a survey, 68% of those who have a sponsor said their sponsor encourages them to assimilate to office norms, as compared to 58% of White and Black professionals and 49% of Asian and Pacific Islander professionals with sponsors. Beyond that, perceptions about race — such as “white-passing-ness” — appear to play a role in whether workers feel represented or accepted.

“Our findings illuminate hurdles Hispanic and Latino professionals face, including the undue pressure to mask their authentic selves and heritage in pursuit of success,” Lanaya Irvin, CEO of Coqual, said in a statement. “The study uncovers not only the pervasive influence of colorism but also its tangible impact on talent experiences within the workplace.”

In the survey of 2,385 full-time U.S. professionals, 40% of Hispanic and Latino or Latina workers said they feel it’s necessary to change aspects of themselves to succeed at their company. In addition, 42% said they feel they’re not truly seen as part of their community by other Hispanic and Latino or Latina individuals, which is often related to immigrant generation status, Spanish language ability or how their racial or ethnic identity is perceived by others.

Skin color can play a role, too. About 64% of Hispanic and Latino or Latina professionals who are perceived as White said they felt well represented in their company’s leadership, as compared with 46% of those who are perceived as Black.

Pay inequities exist as well. Among Hispanic and Latino or Latina individuals, 45% of women said their company doesn’t pay them an appropriate wage, as compared to 25% of men. In addition, 40% of women said their salary doesn’t allow them to support their dependents, as compared to 19% of men.

In a previous survey, Hispanic and Latino or Latina employees said they also often feel unfairly burdened with teaching and explaining diversity, equity and inclusion issues to colleagues. Latinas, in particular, reported the least favorable experience with their company’s DEI efforts in the Kanarys survey.

Instead of instituting DEI initiatives around Hispanic and Latino or Latina workers that feel tokenizing or performative, companies can foster genuine year-round conversations that aim toward lasting change, experts told HR Dive. Having difficult conversations and truly listening to workers remain key, they said.

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