When I think of blue-collar workers I can’t help but remember the cleaning ladies and coffee servers I have encountered in my professional life. Those women who have cleaned my offices, served me coffee, water my plants and give me cooking advice. In their own way, these Latina women and others like them are helping us see the American Latinos redefining labels in the job market.
Those women were special to me, I always connected with them at a personal level and felt at ease when talking to them. I remember Mrs. Colón from my years as a journalist at El Caribe Newspaper in Santo Domingo, she always saved a special mug for me when serving coffee to my colleagues and me in the afternoons, she knew it was my favorite. I know the warmth and motherly presence they had always reminded me of both my grandmothers.
My mother’s mother was a cleaning lady and a cook for rich families back in the Dominican Republic and my father’s mother was always making food and desserts for sale, feeding factory workers, etc. The main thing I remember about both of my grandmothers and all the women I’ve met while working in different companies is their dedication and hard work.
In almost every case, the majority of these women were mothers with children in school or attending college. Some of them even had more than one job to make sure their children could get an education and achieve what they weren’t able to achieve. Those experiences support the research that states consider education as one of their top priorities and is leading, little by little to a shift in the job market.
Unfortunately, every time we hear about Latino blue-collar workers it is to characterize the Latino community negatively, a narrative that reinforces the idea that Latinos can only work in these types of jobs. We all know there is nothing wrong with blue-collar jobs; most likely we have a family member or a parent who has supported the family by performing that type of work.
However, today I want to talk about American Latinos redefining labels and working in other fields, having more managerial positions and impact in areas where there is a great need for diversity.
When I talk about American Latinos redefining labels I know it is not only happening in the work environment but in every area of society. As the types of jobs Latinos perform continues to change, this helps challenge other labels and stereotypes as it allows all Americans to get to know who they are, being able to relate to them at a human level and not based on the portrayal of others.
I believe it is important to highlight the areas in which American Latinos are contributing and leaving a mark, even when the numbers still might seem low in comparison to the percentage of other groups, especially Caucasians, it is important to acknowledge that the demographic is changing and we are becoming younger and more educated than ever before, so we continue to be on our way of having a more prominent presence in white-collar jobs.
There are three good examples of how with talent and hard work, American Latinos are having an influence in other fields:
Nursing. This is one of those professions that align very well with Latino values and the culture of caring for others. While there is still a lack of diversity in this field, the numbers of minorities in this field continues to increase. There are approximately 135,600 Latinos RNs and 51,800 LPNs, as per the Minority Nurse site reports [http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf]. Among those, the majority is concentrated in the West South Central (7.8%), Pacific (6.7%), and Mountain (6.1%) areas of the United States.
Logistician. I have to confess that I had to research what this job entails when I saw that there is a 20.2 percent of Latinos doing this kind of work. By definition a logistician is a person who is in charge of the supply chain of an organization; they have to analyze and coordinate the life cycle of a product within and outside of the organization. There are logisticians in every industry. The fact that a good percentage of them are Latinos speaks to the increasing diversity we have across the board but also is a testament that the only difference there is among people is education. A workforce is only as good as their education and training they get in a particular field, and these numbers to me clearly show the amount of talent you can find in the Latino community. Given the right opportunities and tools, they will achieve and help companies and organizations succeed and with them the country’s economy.
Human Resources Managers. Although there is only a 10.8 percent of Latinos in this field, again we can see the potential of having diversity in jobs that determine who gets hired. It is not about thinking that Hispanics will only hire their own, but to embrace different perspectives and having personnel that has an appreciation for diverse talent. The more multilayered the hiring team is the better chances to have an inclusive approach and culture.
As you can imagine, there are American Latinos redefining labels in all industries, companies, and positions, there is just fewer than they should be. However, the ones that are currently representing are the proof that we are capable of achieving if we are given the opportunities to do so. I was happy to learn that 12.5% of social workers, 12.9% of purchasing managers, 19.2% of transportation, storage and distribution managers, 9.0% of architectural and engineering managers, 23.8% of dental assistants, and 27.5% of medical assistants are also Latinos; the list goes on and on, but you get the point by now.
Helping Those Numbers Grow
There are several ways in which we can prove the negative labels and stereotypes wrong, like working hard toward our goals, leading meaningful lives, getting educated, and going after our dreams. However, there is a key step we all must take to grow up as a community, and I’m not talking about growing in numbers which we are already doing, I mean to become ‘adult citizens’ if you will. We need to be on a mission to mentor and advocate.
If each one of us decides to mentor and/or advocate for someone in our field, we are going to see our community getting stronger, achieving higher education, obtaining better jobs. It is a matter of giving back and adding to the work that our students and recent-grads are putting. When you read about mentoring and advocating it might sound like a daunting task or you simply don’t know where to begin.
Look around; get to know your coworkers, your students if you are in education, your children’s friends. Once you identify that Latino or Latina that is eager to learn, to advance to do the work, offer to lend a hand and do. It can be as simple as providing a recommendation letter if you are in a position to do so, or helping a student with a subject you are good at, hiring a college student that is working his or her way to a degree.
There is power in numbers; but only if we use it to uplift one another to get more American Latinos in professional positions, in public office, in the medical field, in STEAM, and anywhere they want to be. We have the power to do it and we will continue to see American Latinos redefining labels in the job market and beyond.