Katherine Rodriguez
Sep 16 · 5 min read

Forgoing one’s identity and uniqueness in favor of ‘conforming to join in’ is becoming more outmoded by the day. Companies in greater numbers are now becoming more supportive of the idea of ‘bringing your whole self’ or your ‘authentic self’ to work. From a business standpoint, fostering a more inclusive work environment is reaping financial rewards as well. A McKinsey & Company study of 180 companies concludes that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.

By Katherine Rodriguez, Julie Garcia Seebach and Jose Acosta

Forgoing one’s identity and uniqueness in favor of ‘conforming to join in’ is becoming more outmoded by the day. Companies in greater numbers are now becoming more supportive of the idea of bringing your whole self or your ‘authentic self’ to work. From a business standpoint, fostering a more inclusive work environment is reaping financial rewards as well. A McKinsey & Company study of 180 companies concludes that companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers.

What does ‘bringing your authentic self’ mean to us? It means feeling safe enough to be the same person at work that we are at home and around loved ones. It also means being able to thrive and succeed in an environment where we are accepted, appreciated, and valued without judgment or bias.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time not just to celebrate the many faces of Hispanic culture, but to take stock of how well we encourage authenticity in the workplace. In considering this, three questions come to mind when thinking about how the Hispanic community has progressed in Corporate America and beyond:

1) How far have we come?

2) Where are we lacking?

3) Where are we headed?

How far have we come?

Hispanic thought leaders who have broken barriers include Democratic Presidential candidate Julian Castro and, arguably the most high profile example in recent memory, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The corporate world also has numerous Hispanic people among its most influential leaders such as PG&E President and CEO Geisha Williams as well as Grace Puma, Executive Vice President of PepsiCo.

This progress is also evident when you drill deeper down into the world of finance. It seems that every year there are more Latinos serving as financial advisors and underwriters, particularly in the Southwestern United States. This trend represents a marked improvement compared to a few decades ago when some in the public finance world struggled to understand the dynamics of certain communities such as those located along the US/Mexico border.

As to when and where this sea change took place, you can probably point to Estrada Hinojosa & Co., a financial advisory firm based in Dallas that was among the first companies to meaningfully represent the Hispanic population. Other firms such as San Antonio-based Tijerina Galvan Lawrence have spun out from Estrada Hinojosa to serve Latino communities. Additionally, established companies like Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., LLC, a majority women- and minority-owned firm with well over 50% in minority employees, have made meaningful in-roads in diversification. Also of note is the company’s principal, Henry Cisneros, who is also the first Hispanic-American mayor of a major U.S. city and served four terms as San Antonio’s mayor. These are signs of real progress.

Where are we lacking?

Despite a significant increase of Latinos in the workforce, there has not been accompanying growth in leadership. Financial advisory and underwriting firms are already a rarified world, and more so for Latinos who often have had very little exposure to that world during their formative years. This issue is all the more notable as the Hispanic population is the largest among all minorities in the United States. Only 11 Fortune 500 CEOs are Latino. This deficiency is clear evidence that few Hispanics are in C-suite positions and that we still have a ways to go.

It can be intimidating and discomforting to be your authentic self in a company where you are underrepresented. So, it is imperative that companies not only vocalize their advocacy, but model those behaviors from the top down. We cannot convincingly promote diversity and inclusion if company leadership positions do not reflect diverse and inclusive groups. Statistics prove that CEOs certainly recognize the importance of diversity in leading a social enterprise, though a plan of action to address it is not yet in place globally.

Where are we headed?

Until recently, there has been a lot of talk and not much in the way of meaningful action as far as advancing minorities on a large scale. That changed earlier this year when Congresswoman Maxine Waters created a diversity and inclusion subcommittee with the overarching goal of ensuring that the financial services industry is truly representative of an inclusive population. Of note here is the more aggressive push to hire more minority-owned asset managers, as seen by the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp’s program to give minority-owned firms more opportunity to manage federal pension plans.

Some organizations are also doing their part by making training on diversity and inclusion mandatory. Companies are also now encouraging the formation of employee resource groups (ERGs) where employees can find co-workers with whom they can relate and thrive. At Fitch, we formed the Black and Latinx Alliance Network for Corporate Excellence (BALANCE) ERG, which is focused on helping our firm achieve its Diversity and Inclusion objectives. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are holding a panel to share our experiences and celebrate the Many Faces of Hispanic Culture.

Conclusion

Already the largest minority population in the United States, the Hispanic population is forecast to jump to nearly 30% by 2060. Moreover, while meaningful progress has been made in advancing the Hispanic community throughout Corporate America and beyond, there is still much work to be done.

Katherine Rodriguez, Julie Garcia Seebach, and Jose Acosta are members of Fitch’s Black And Latinx Alliance Network for Corporate Excellence (BALANCE)

Sources

https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2019/leading-social-enterprise.html?id=us:2ps:3gl:confidence:eng:cons:41819:nonem:na:59bXWq97:1149430528:344233496604:b:Brand_Future_of_Work:Brand_HCT_Intro_BMM:br

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shereeatcheson/2018/09/25/embracing-diversity-and-fostering-inclusion-is-good-for-your-business/#29da75ca72b1

https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/27/us/u-s-census-fast-facts/index.html

https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/blog/authentic-self-work/

https://fortune.com/2018/03/14/most-powerful-latinas-2018/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lbsbusinessstrategyreview/2019/04/01/time-to-rethink-bringing-your-whole-self-to-work/#7e942b577b68

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertreiss/2018/02/27/latino-ceos-share-insights-on-business-success/#57647bd32264

https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p25-1143.pdf

https://waters.house.gov/issues/minority-and-women-inclusion

Why? Forum

Commentary from Fitch on why we think what we think.

Katherine Rodriguez

Written by

Fitch BALANCE Group Chair

Why? Forum

Commentary from Fitch on why we think what we think.

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