Dec 1, 2020 - Economy

The broken pipeline for Latino executives

Illustration of a door lock in the shape of a neck tie

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Latino professionals have the widest gap between representation in the labor force and executive positions — bigger than that of any other minority group.

Why it matters: Latinos will make up a quarter of the U.S. population by 2050, and scores of U.S. firms profit off of Latino consumers, but this group is absent from the business world's highest and most impactful decision-making positions.

By the numbers:

  • Latinos account for nearly 18% of the U.S. labor force and own 1 in 7 small businesses.
  • But they occupy just 4% of executive roles and less than 3% of Fortune 1000 company board seats.

"This is completely abysmal," says Sindy Benavides, CEO of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "Latinos make up 1 in 5 Americans, and we’re invisible at the biggest corporations."

The inequities are starkest in some of the country's biggest cities, according to research from the Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  • In New York, Latinos make up 22.6% of the workforce and hold just 4.5% of the executive positions. In San Jose, they are 26.8% of the workforce and hold 3.8% of the roles.
  • Miami, a majority Latino city, has the best representation statistics, with Latinos accounting for 44.1% of the labor force and 24.6% of the top jobs, but even there the gap is wide.

What to watch: "It’s pretty clear that firms respond to public pressure," says Don Tomaskovic-Devey, director of UMass' Center for Employment Equity. Over the summer, at least 170 companies committed to increasing Black representation in response to racial justice protests.

  • Companies haven't faced that same pressure to increase Latino representation, he says.

"One of the reasons it goes unnoticed is because we're also silent on it," says Daniel Villao, chairman of the Association of Latino Professionals for America's board of directors.

  • But the number of organizations speaking out about the lack of representation is growing, and public pressure could quickly build as Latinos make up a larger and larger share of U.S. consumers.
  • "For a business to not take into account that their client base needs to see people that look like them is a mistake," Villao says. "It’s gonna be felt in your wallet."

The bottom line: As we've reported, employees and customers alike are becoming increasingly aware of companies' values, and they're making decisions about where to work and where to buy based on whether companies stick to those values.

  • Increasing Latino representation so that C-suites and board rooms look like the rest of America is a clear way for firms to help their communities and their profit margins.
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