Eskalera Talks Latinx Resource Groups at Work
Dr. Tolonda Tolbert (Dr. T) is the co-founder and Head of Strategy and Culture at our sister company, Eskalera Inc.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it made me reflect on how organizations traditionally support our Latinx community through ERGs. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Business Resource Groups (BRGs) when they are done well, operate as a safe space of belonging for the members, help foster a culture of workplace inclusion, help to groom diverse talent through professional development, build brand recognition with community outreach, support diverse recruitment and provide valuable business insights on new markets and product development. ERG’s have been around for over three decades, but today’s ERG’s are grappling with the abundance of intra-ethnic diversity that makes traditional delineation difficult at best and the Latinx community is the epitome of intra-ethnic diversity.
As someone raised in Colorado a place with strong Mexican influence but who also spent my adult life in NYC with it’s Caribbean and Central American influence, I’m fortunate to say that my Latinx friends and chosen family are from every racial background. They have features that are Indigenous, African, European and a mix of all of the above and often within the same family. They range from people who were raised in a place and when time their Latinx parents didn’t want them to learn Spanish as a survival mechanism, to people who exclusively speak Spanish, and all the Spanglish in-between.
The diversity and intersectionality within Latinx culture are rich, and our workplace programs like ERGs need to address this in order to continue to function as the resource they are meant to be. Particularly because research shows that if you have multiple marginalized identities such as being Latinx, black, and a woman, feelings of otherness are compounded and can impact career advancement. And that traditional D&I programs that only focus on one element of diversity, don’t work as well for those who have multiple elements of diversity. Most traditional ERGs are not set up to address the current diversity within the Latinx community. It quickly becomes Sophie’s choice of which one of your identities is most important to recognize in the workplace, despite the fact that people don’t experience life in discrete compartments that never overlap.
Our organizations need to catch up with the lived reality of Latinx employees. In efforts to address this issue, some organizations have Mosaic or Multicultural ERGs, others have purposely used the descriptor of Latinx rather than Hispanic to be more inclusive of the diversity within the community to include Caribbean, Indigenous, non-Spanish speakers, and LGBTQ. What is clear is that the approach to supporting Latinx employees must address the multiple audiences that are part and parcel of the community in order to truly celebrate the Latinx cultures. Addressing and embracing the intra-ethnic diversity that is the Latinx community will only make our communities and organizations richer and stronger.
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