As California’s Latino demographics continue to shift, the Concílio de Liderazgo (Latino Leadership Council) wants to ensure Latino representation grows at all levels of the workforce.
The Latino population is not reflected in greater numbers in the workforce, which poses a foreseeable problem going into the future.
“As Latinos continue to grow in numbers, we need to understand what this demographic change means in our community and what we need to do to be more inclusive and more diverse at all levels of our society,” said Carlos Quíroz, the council’s executive director.
In California today, more than 53 percent of school children are Latino but only 18 percent of teachers are Latino.
In the health and medical field, Latinos represent 4.7 percent of all physicians. This means that for every 2,000 Latino patients, there is only 1 Latino doctor.
Only 8.3 percent of behavioral health workers in the state are Latino and only 8 percent of nurses are Latino.
The dismal numbers are worrisome for educators, employers and community leaders who seek to diversify the workforce.
It is a matter of urgency for most educators.
“I can’t tell you how many times Latino students come up to me to tell me, ‘Wow! It is great to see a Latina in education, a Latina professor.’ I wish it was the norm, but the fact that I am still being told this is a problem,” said Dr. Natalia Deeb-Sossa, an associate professor in the UC Davis Chicana/o Studies Department.
At the Blue Goose Event Center in Loomis, the Latino Leadership Council held its third annual ‘California Forum on the Latino Community: How to Better Reflect a Changing Demographic’ and invited experts to discuss the lack of Latino representation in the workforce.
Experts believe the reason many Latinos are not reaching professional levels in the workforce has a lot to do with their preparation, skills and level of educational attainment.
In California for example, only half of Latino students (54 percent) graduate from high school. Of those, only 27 percent go on to college. Of those that attend a four-year university, only 14 percent successfully graduate and only 7 percent pursue a masters, doctorate or other higher education.
Latinos are also vastly underrepresented at the California State University College system, the University of California system and the Community College system.
The largest populations of Latino students are concentrated at the California State University, Los Angeles campus (with over 60 percent); UC Merced (with 44 percent) and Sierra College which enrolls over 5,000 Latinos.
The numbers have created a word that is being used by educators to describe the dynamic of the growing Latino population.
“There is this idea or concept of Latinization, or a ‘browning,’ of the United States that many have not seen before and who many somewhat fear. According to the US Census, Latinos will be the largest ethnic minority by 2050 and with it is attached a very powerful political influential block,” said Deeb-Sossa.
Deeb-Sossa, who has studied substantive issues in inequality, began her research by studying racial tension and workplace inequalities at a Community Clinic in El Nuevo South. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, she analyzed how workers at a private, not-for-profit health care center reproduce — or resist reproducing — inequalities of race, class and gender in their interactions with each other and in their daily work with the poor, especially Latinos.
Deeb-Sossa discovered that there persist misunderstandings, both cultural and ethnic about Latinos.
“Latinos were scapegoats during my research and I found that there are many common misconceptions of Latinos overall—everything from not practicing birth control and having a litter of babies, to stereotypes and just incorrect ideas of our community,” said Deeb-Sossa.
Christopher Onstott, a lawyer who focuses on employment litigation and commercial litigation and who has defended employers in employment litigation, including defending against race, sex and disability discrimination and harassment claims says Latinos, as well as many ethnic minority groups suffer from unintentional biases when they enter the workforce.
“Despite the very real need for employers to have a diverse workforce, it becomes a challenge when race and national origin are two things that cannot be used in hiring decisions,” said Onstott.
The very laws that are intended to provide the workplace free from discrimination are often times, the ones who pose a barrier to workplace diversity, he said.
“The law is constantly reminding us that we have to be colorblind but that can be an obstacle to diversity. Employers should stop looking at diversity as binary and focus on the entire applicant and their application when hiring,” said Onstott who speaks fluent Spanish.
The questions that are asked during interviews are supremely important, he added.
He also advises that employers stay away from checking the social media accounts of prospective employees when making hiring decisions.
There is a simple reason for this.
“I say to them, you are playing with fire. Employers will begin to have preconceived biases or ideas of a person before hiring them. I advise against it because a persons social media can be entirely different than who they are as an employee,” said Onstott.
In order for more Latinos to enter the workforce, Elisa Herrera, the business and development manager at the Latino Leadership Council, advices employers need to look beyond their immediate networking circle and join other groups or clubs that would diversify their options for potential employees.
“Employers can join civic or volunteer organizations that might introduce them to applicants with different strengths, experiences or perspectives. Also, donating to different charities and getting to know people working in underserved communities would expand the scope of the type of applicants they hope to attract,” said Herrera.
Herrera says employers must be very detailed in their job descriptions for hiring and should be strategic with their advertisement placements for employment as well as their participation in career fairs.
“Sacramento is not the only diverse city, or at least, not the only Latino-centric city. Latinos are everywhere and a growing population in Placer County. They just need opportunities,” said Herrera.