WOCA 2021: Research Update: Understanding Workplace Barriers for Latinas

The following session is from Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s fourth annual Women of Color and Their Allies event, held Oct. 21, 2021. This year’s theme was “Sustaining Workforce Positions for Women of Color.” Throughout the day, panels consisting of researchers, thought leaders and executives shared their insights and strategies for helping women of color overcome common workplace barriers and spotlight allies working to sustain their positions within the workforce.


Moderator: Naki Carter, Director of Marketing & Communications at Fair360, formerly DiversityInc

Speaker: Sylvia Pérez Cash, Senior Vice President of Operations at Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR)

The recent “HACR Empow(h)er: Understanding Workplace Barriers for Latinas” report examines some of the day-to-day challenges Latinas face. The research highlights how Latinas represent less than 1% of executives in the U.S., a fact that is in contrast to them being the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs.

By 2060, Latinas will comprise more than one-third of the U.S. female population. In this session, we dig into why the lack of representation in corporate executive suites persists and examine some of the data from the report.

Session Highlights from Pérez Cash

On Latina representation and advancement: 

“Latinas make up 18% of the U.S. female population today and are projected to make up over a third in the coming decades. We also know that Latinas were not participating in mentorship and sponsorship programs at the same rates as other segments. So, when we looked at all of that combined, we understood that there is a challenge in the pipeline where there’s a lack of intentionality around focusing on Latinas and increasing opportunities for Latinas in the workplace. And to do it, you would have to figure out where are they first.”

On the use of Latinx: 

“I think the most simple explanation I can provide is that language is fluid. So, in the Latinx community, you have multiple words that you’ll hear. Latinx is a census terminology. It’s research-based and defined by the U.S. Census. Because Latinx is very difficult to pronounce in Spanish, if you’re in a Spanish-speaking community, you may want to use the word Latiné. That’s the equivalent of the gender-neutral term in the Spanish language.”

On stereotypes of Latinas:

“There’s a lot of stereotypes about women not speaking up for themselves. That is compounded by the stereotypes about Latino culture, that Latinos are quiet and humble and they wait to be seen, they don’t speak up, they let their words speak for themselves, and then they get noticed. That’s just not how corporate America works. That’s not how social networks work. So, there’s a lot of assumptions about why a Latina may not be self-advocating and that it’s a preference or that she’s not assertive enough. Contrary to that, she’s too assertive. I think a lot of women, regardless of their ethnic background or racial background, face this. If I’m too assertive, I’m not female enough. If I’m not assertive, then I’m not getting the attention. I’m not standing up for myself, and I’m not being acknowledged as a leader.”