I took this picture of a Chocolate Mexicano disc in a coffee shop in Hyde Park, a neighborhood near downtown Cincinnati.
We often spend too much time talking about cultural trends as if we’re awaiting for something that hasn’t arrived yet. Today it struck me. One day it happens. Demographic “trends” become demographic realities.
Understanding Latino culture is not easy. However, making the effort to understand it can have vast rewards for the organizations that are still searching to create a diverse and innovative workforce.
I don’t watch cable news. No more shouting talking heads for me.
In fact, we’ve whittled our cable service to about 16 channels – I guess we’re even below basic! Today, I get information through a number of quality online news sources. When I do watch news broadcasts, it’s usually via PBS.
Over the last week, PBS has shared some excellent in-depth stories and programs related to Hispanic Heritage month. Many of which are related to culture and the dual identities that Latinos carry within them. Below are two great examples, and I’d encourage you to watch them when you have chance.
The first video is from the PBS News Hour and features El Pasoan artist Benjamin Sáenz. Mr. Sáenz shares his thoughts about life on the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Having lived in El Paso for over ten years, I found his words and work powerful, especially as it relates to dual identities, society, and culture. Mr. Sáenz’s piece begins at the 46:30 mark.
The second video is from PBS’, “When World’s Collide. The Untold Story of the Americas After Columbus.” It can be found online here. The program essentially tells the origins of Latino culture. The website accurately describes it: “Travel from Machu Picchu in Peru, to the Mayan cities of Central America, and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, to discover how the collision of two sophisticated worlds created an entirely new culture.”
The history of Latino culture is long and one that continues to evolve. It’s complex. Its influence is everywhere. Those who can understand, appreciate, and engage it will benefit from its rich history.
I love Google Reader. I spend about an hour a day using it to keep up-to-date on Hispanic workforce and college-related information. It’s an invaluable resource for me. Every couple days I sort my feeds by “Starred” items – articles and information I find particularly interesting. Last night as I reviewed my starred feeds one thing became obviously clear.
Companies, colleges, and other organizations are working vigorously to increase the number of Latino employees, students, and leaders. Over the last week, I’ve read many accounts of what institutions are doing to make this happen. It’s great to see the efforts being put forth. However, I see one problem.
Each of them is functioning alone. It’s rare that I read that a college is partnering with a corporation or a non-profit is working with another institution. It seems everybody is working – but not many are collaborating. A landscape of silos.
The problem with silos is that there’s not a principal view of the overall and fundamental goal. Consequently, barriers are not accurately identified, issues become unmanageable, or core issues are unrecognizable.
Bridging these silos requires collaboration, dexterity, facility, and relationship building. I realize this is challenging and easier said than done. To increase the representation of Latinos at all levels of the workforce, we must collaborate. It will require companies, higher education, and non-profits to coordinate and communicate around this central goal.
Today I had the pleasure of attending a diversity and inclusion event sponsored by NSHMBA and Macy’s at the Macy’s corporate headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. Often times at these events, it’s not just about learning from the speakers who present, but learning from the people who you meet. I was fortunate to sit next to a woman by the name of Mary who had the incredible experience of developing online training programs on a global scale.
Our chat during lunch was fascinating. She walked me through the multicultural and technical aspects of her project. As I listened to her experiences in developing virtual learning applications in multicultural environments, I thought to myself, we need more people like Mary in this world. People that build cultural bridges using what they know. I don’t think Mary realizes just how much talent and ability it took to do what she did. Yes the work was hard but what she accomplished was a big deal.
Being a connection between distinct cultures is never easy even in our own country, and yet she accomplished this on a much larger scale. I encouraged Mary to write an article or somehow share her experiences with others. We all need to follow in the footsteps people like Mary - the cultural bridge builder.
I’ve been doing some catch up reading and just got this terrific article via the Huffington Post regarding the educational “pipeline.” The article focuses on the STEM educational pipeline specifically. As you know, I’m not a big fan of the term “pipeline” because I think it doesn’t capture the various experiences and values instilled in Latino college students. Plus, it’s so 20th century!
While Latinos have made some strides in the science and engineering fields, much work still needs to be done increasing their representation within these academic programs. Among the issues include increasing the recruitment of college students in these programs and keeping them there. While it’s wonderful to focus on supply, the same effort must be applied to retention. Connected to recruitment of more students is increasing the representation of Latinos and other minority faculty and administrative positions.
The USA Science and Engineering Festival described in the article is doing its part in trying to change this gloomy situation.
The event brings together a wide array of world-class scientists, engineers, biotech entrepreneurs and Nobel Laureates with students, teachers, parents and communities, and involves more than 750 leading science and engineering organizations; more than 1,500 hands-on Expo activities, 75 stage shows, and much more — all expected to attract more than half a million visitors and participants, nationwide.
All these wonderful people are focused on helping change the mindset and culture regarding Latinos and STEM careers. Si se puede!
I wanted to share some final thoughts regarding last week’s CHL Leadership Summit. Overall, I think everyone in attendance was provided with thought provoking dialogue and information.
There were many ideas and thoughts I took away from our meeting. Here are my thoughts at the 30,000 foot level not so much focused on the dialogue, but what our discussions mean for organizations functioning in a multicultural environment.
First, organizations are becoming more complex through internal and external partnerships with strategic groups. One perfect example of internal complexity was illustrated by our discussion regarding employee resource groups (ERGs), particularly culture-based ones. Their existence is changing. In some instances, ERGs are trying to meet contradictory objectives simultaneously.
I attempted to come up with a term that would capture the multicultural ideas coming out of our discussions: “Glocalization.” This is the idea that many U.S. organizations have become microcosms of the global economy. Additionally, organizations are challenged to incorporate and manage a host of diverse cultures into 20th century management structures. A difficult objective. Organizations must loosen their traditional leadership and management moors toward ones that address different workforce values and beliefs.
Third, common purpose, communication, and adaptation are essential organizational elements from a multicultural context. These elements will be needed to grasp and function in a complex multicultural environment. As these elements are incorporated into structures, organizations will eventually change their culture and environment (“the tipping point”) to increase multicultural representation at the higher leadership levels.
Finally, organizations must look to the long-term when addressing multicultural leadership issues. It will require organizations to develop new employee engagement models; to find opportunities to celebrate and leverage diverse cultural values generated by a diverse workforce; and to assure leaders and managers are committed to this change.