Zeno For Everyone: Representation and Hopes for the Future this Hispanic Heritage Month
By Denisse Montalvan, VP Multicultural Communications
At Zeno, ensuring all employees have a sense of belonging is essential to our diversity, equity and inclusion. In our content series “Zeno for Everyone,” we’ll share personal stories from Zenoids and learn about how different backgrounds and histories shape perspectives and enrich our experiences. #ZenoForEveryone
Hispanic Heritage Month is the time of the year that undeniably feels like it belongs to us, Hispanics, Latino/as, Latinx, Latin(e), as a unified community. As I walk through the store aisles, it’s been refreshing to see that brand marketers are doing their research and authentically connecting to the community by featuring Latinx talent and creators.
But beyond being known for the variety of delicious foods, music genres making this country move or colorful art that represents each Hispanic country, I want to be seen in a different way and have that representation last beyond Hispanic Heritage Month.
Our community is often underrepresented, and brands should strive to showcase and celebrate our diversity during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond. We are not a specific race, we’re a magnificent blend of humanity, and although our ancestors experienced life-altering trauma that still echoes down several generations, we are resilient people today. Hispanics know how to overcome difficult situations; most recently being the group most affected by COVID-19, facing immigration issues and experiencing historic financial hardships. Despite all of these challenges, 45% of Hispanics who grew up in the lowest income quintile made it to the middle class or even higher, compared to 46% of whites and 25% of Blacks. We are breaking down barriers to drive economic growth and shape the culture in the U.S.
During a recent ZinMiedo meeting – Zeno’s Latinx Employee Resource Group whose name is a play on the word ‘fearless’ – some members shared relatable childhood memories from translating legal documents at age 8 for their parents to helping make tamales for the family business after school. Our Latino experience of grit and survival is remarkable, and I’m sure we’re making our ancestors proud. I left that ERG meeting feeling so inspired and proud of Latinxs at Zeno who are thriving in their careers. While the Latino community has accomplished so much to date, imagine if we didn’t have these additional responsibilities and instead had more opportunities to fully focus on growing and developing to our full potential.
Despite all this progress and active development, the community has been and continues to be generally misrepresented, misperceived and undervalued. The latest census data notes that the 2020 real median household incomes of Hispanics decreased from their 2019 medians, and the poverty rate rose to 17%. Hispanics are hard workers, job makers, and entrepreneurs in this country, yet these achievements and development drivers are often invisible, not only externally, but also within the community. Research shows that 77% of Hispanics are not aware of their own contributions to the U.S. How much more do we have to contribute, prove and overcome to change perceptions and secure visible seats at the leadership table?
Instead of leveraging Latinx culture only for profit, imagine if companies offered opportunities to Latinx people instead. We have the talent and the will to succeed, and the Latinx community has a positive outlook on the nation’s recovery post-pandemic, with more than half of Latino adults stating in a recent Pew survey that they felt they would be better off financially in the next year. What if brands invited Latinos of all walks of life for a PAID month of experience and networking at their companies? With such a program we could envision ourselves in corporate roles that may look very different from our families’ career background. We just need real-life opportunities, and to know that the struggles and generational traumas we’ve overcome are seen as something positive and that it counts toward a real chance in the business world.
I want to roam the store aisles and not only see Latino products on the shelves but know there are high-ranking Latinos at these companies making important decisions and creating a new path for Latino professionals. As a working professional Latina mom, I’ll be doing my part by supporting and encouraging higher education in my Latino community. By the time my daughters are in college, I want them to have three degrees of separation from the CEO who is going to get them a great internship that sets them on a path that their immigrant mother could only dream of.