Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! The month-long celebration, aimed at recognizing the influences of Hispanic American people and their contributions to the United States, began on Sept. 15 and will go through Oct. 15.
With a focus on diversity and inclusion this month, it’s vital for HR to celebrate this holiday in the right way and help Hispanic employees feel valued and supported. It’s important to understand why you’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as help employees, understand the significance of this month and take your celebrations beyond a hashtag on social media.
The importance of Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month has been around since 1968 – though it was only Hispanic Heritage Week at that time. It’s meant to not only honor the Hispanic heritage and all Hispanic Americans who have helped build America but to also shine a light on how far there is to go.
“There is still a lack of representation of Latinos at every level of our society, even though we make up 18% of the U.S. population,” says Yrthya Dinzey-Flores, VP of DEI, Social Impact and Sustainability at Justworks. “…only 3.4% of Latinos occupy positions in the corporate executive suites and only 8% of private tech sector jobs.”
With the lack of representation in leadership roles, it’s important for HR to take this month to recommit to DEI efforts. “Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a moment when we can refocus on the issues confronting our LatinX community and re-energize us for the work during the remaining 11 months of the year,” says Dinzey-Flores.
There are many ways to celebrate this holiday and help employees understand its significance. Start with these three key focuses to help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in an impactful and engaging way.
The first step to being able to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is understanding why it’s celebrated and its historical significance. “For me, celebrating Hispanic heritage is about understanding our history,” says Dinzey-Flores. “What makes this country unique are the many people, cultures and traditions that have contributed to creating such a rich and diverse democracy.”
Education can range from simple facts – such as the differences between LatinX, Hispanic and Spanish – to more complex topics that affect Hispanic Americans today. Understanding the challenges Hispanic Americans have faced in America and their involvement in history will help give a greater appreciation of the holiday and help to focus on what matters.
Some ways you can help educate employees on Hispanic heritage are:
- Host a Lunch and Learn on Hispanic culture and history
- Have a thoughtful discussion on Latinx issues with an outside speaker, and
- Provide a library of educational resources such as short videos or podcasts.
Like any other marginalized group, Hispanic Americans have faced injustices and inequality. Hispanic Heritage Month is about more than just celebrating Hispanic history and achievements. “We must not only celebrate but also recognize the sometimes troubling ways in which our nation was built and the many people that formed part of that journey,” says Dinzey-Flores.
It can – and should – be used as an opportunity to evaluate the disparities that still exist for Hispanic Americans and understand how your organization can help promote equality.
Here are some action items to help you go beyond just acknowledging disparities and support the Hispanic community:
- Donate to or partner with a non-profit organization that helps the Hispanic community
- Ensure your leadership team is diverse (and if not, re-evaluate your recruiting process), and
- Establish an Employee Resource Group for Hispanic or LatinX employees.
Recognizing cultural influence
A major part of Hispanic Heritage Month is the recognition of Hispanic influence on America – both from Hispanic Americans throughout history and the pieces of Hispanic culture that have enriched American culture as well.
Although it’s important to acknowledge disparities and ensure employees are educated on Hispanic history, celebrating Hispanic culture through more traditional events like potlucks and dance classes is just as important – and fun.
Here are some things that you can do to help celebrate Hispanic culture this month:
- Choose a prominent Hispanic writer for a company book club
- Give away gift cards or cater lunch from local Hispanic restaurants, and
- Provide care packages to employees with gifts from small Hispanic-owned businesses.