By MICHELLE T. JOHNSON
Special writer to The Kansas City Star
September is Hispanic Heritage Month, which makes me realize how little reliable information — vs. stereotypes and inaccuracies — there is about Hispanics in the workplace.
Unfortunately, what pops into the minds of many when they think about Hispanics in the workplace is “illegal immigrants.” I’ve heard far too many people who should know better make that assumption.
This in part comes about because of what people see on television and the Internet, and because we tend to turn bits of anecdotal evidence into something we “know.”
In truth, Americans of Hispanic descent grapple with the same issues as any other group in the workforce — and like many groups battling stereotypes, their challenges are often greater than average.
For example, a recent study found that Hispanic workers were twice as likely to hold administrative or clerical entry-level jobs as “nondiverse workers,” which the study defined as white males who were not disabled, gay or transgender.
The study also found that 51 percent of the Hispanic workers surveyed were likely to be making less than $50,000 a year, compared with 31 percent for the non-diverse workers.
In terms of demographics, Hispanics have long since passed African-Americans as the largest U.S. ethnic minority, with 50 percent population growth in the last decade alone. And the most recent news is that Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority enrolled in college.
My longtime friend Mary D. Padilla says that one of the biggest misconceptions she thinks people have about Hispanics, especially in the workforce, is that they are all Mexican or of Mexican descent.
An estimated 63 percent of U.S. Hispanics are of Mexican descent, so that leaves more than a third who are not.
Diversity is about the distinctions and not just the differences. Details matter. Different groups have different cultural norms, different histories and different worldviews.
Hispanic Heritage Month is meant to remind us of that — it’s more than just having a fiesta with a feast in the lunchroom. We should recognize, celebrate and become educated about a big segment of our workforce.
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/09/05/3122994/assumptions-hurt-hispanic-workforce.html