The article in BusinessWeek about Latino leaders highlights some important aspects of what it means to be Latino these days in corporate America. Yet, it feels like the analysis was done in a lab (aka. focus group where all people are most likely to follow the tone of questioning once it has been set by the first answer) rather than in real life. In any case, I respect and admire the work that Bernardo Ferdman and Placida Gallegos have done in their study titled:Â Identity Orientations of Latinos in the United States.
The points below are a summary of what the interviewer for BW touched upon in regards to the Latino leader in corporate America.
A Latino leader puts emphasis on the following due to their Latino heritage, the interviewee argues.
- Caring for all parties involved
- Trying to find a way to meet everyone’s needs.
- Be what you are but don’t carry it on your sleeve
This is all true to a certain extent and the degree to which these points hold up depend upon the cultural baggage that your Latino heritage provides. However, the differences between the cultural clusters within the Latino community are not so much about cultural background, as noted by the article, as they are about educational levels and language.
Educational differences are the new “generational gap” for Latinos that live in the United States. A good education will put you in track to success in corporate America regardless of race while a bad or incomplete education will set you back to the same standard of living of a first generation Latino immigrant. There are levels in between that are not being explored. A sort of limbo where you can neither let go of you roots nor you can build a successful future for yourself.
At the highest levels of corporate America, you can find examples of very successful Latino leaders that have gotten there by breaking the barriers that their own culture places upon them. Â A Latino leader can be just as successful as any other in a global market place where companies need cultural savvy to conquer new markets. The global war for talent has gone beyond race and nationality thus creating a moreÂ leveled playing field for Latino and non-Latino leaders alike.
Furthermore, companies that fail to harness the full individual’s potential (including their understanding of their indigenous markets) will not be able to succeed at a global level and might be considered a secondary choice for employment by the top Latino talent available worldwide.
The challenge from my point of view is not how to bring our Latino background into the higher ranks of corporate America but how do we create a more balanced, accepting and educated workforce where the strengths of your cultural background can be fully utilized in order to help you growÂ professionallyÂ while achieving the business goals that the job requires.
Latinos will eventually start to be seen in the higher ranks more often. But that will take some time -not decades but probably years- because remember that Latino leaders started being groomed only for the past couple of decades while the dominant anglo workforce has been in in the higher ranks for centuries.