Creating the Right Environment for Professional Growth for Latinos

Dabdub_HHM leadership growth October 4, 2022 By: Diana L. Dabdub, Josie Hernandez, and Ben Yzaguirre, CAE

Associations are positioned to create the right environment for professional growth for Latinos. As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, a look at the different roles that association can take in offering professional-development opportunities to those from underrepresented groups.

Hispanic Americans are routinely underrepresented in leadership positions across various industries. Consider this, while Hispanics comprise approximately 18 percent of the U.S. population and have a labor force participation rate among the highest of any race or ethnicity [PDF], they make up only 2.7 percent of Fortune 1000 company board seats, 4 percent of large U.S. companies most senior positions, and 8 percent of STEM employees.

The figures are even more dire for Latinas, who comprise only 0.69 percent of U.S. executives. And the future pipeline of Hispanic leaders faces challenges too, with fewer than half of Hispanics seeing high-growth STEM fields as welcoming to them.

We are losing out on a significant component of the population that is young, educated, entrepreneurial, and poised to serve in our industries. This is the Latino paradox. But associations are positioned to create the right environment for professional growth.

The Role of Associations in Promoting Professional Growth

With so many challenges, it is critically essential for associations to evaluate their professional development opportunities, particularly for those from underrepresented groups.

When thinking about professional development, we must expand our definition from a traditional, individual educational course or continuing-education program. Professional development encompasses a much broader set of career training and growth opportunities across the various departments of associations. For example, volunteer leadership is a skill set that associations can provide members and often transfers to their professional roles.

Similarly, online communities offer the opportunity for members to learn from each other and establish themselves as thought leaders within specific groups. The process of being published in an association’s publication or having the chance to present an educational session also provides the opportunity for skill and career growth.

So, what can association leaders do to help facilitate a member’s professional development and, in particular, reach Latino stakeholders? Consider the following strategies.

Determine your baseline. How are Hispanic Americans represented within your association’s industry, membership, nonmember guests, and individual programs? Establishing a baseline is a critical first step to help evaluate future initiatives and outreach.

Evaluate who is leading your learning. Who is participating as meeting speakers, webinar presenters, article authors, and online contributors? Representation is not only critical for the individual member who leads the learning opportunity, but it also provides a welcoming environment for Hispanic learners and future leaders. Challenge your recruitment strategies to include a variety of voices.

Consider partnering with Hispanic-focused organizations in your industry. Hispanic professionals experience shared barriers to growth based on implicit or explicit bias, along with cultural norms like being uncomfortable demonstrating ambition or advocating for themselves. Professional-development programs offered by Hispanic-focused organizations offer opportunities to address these barriers in cohorts with other Hispanic professionals managing the same issues. These organizations also offer access to Hispanic mentors and sponsors that may be difficult to obtain through your association.

Make a pathway. Do your learning programs appeal to early-, mid- and advanced-career employees? Can each type of learner follow a trajectory of content that will appropriately challenge them? Providing an entry point, particularly for those earlier in their careers, is a great way to develop talent.

Remove barriers. Does the timing of your courses fit the availability of your members? What complimentary content do you provide members as an entry point? Consider the initial barriers that may discourage would-be participants. For example, offering webinars exclusively during the day may not be the best fit for members who are more junior in their careers.

Provide a volunteer ladder. How easy is it for a member to get involved within your association? Are there microvolunteering opportunities, or do most volunteer roles follow a rigid structure that may be prohibitive? The smallest microvolunteer opportunity could lead to a lifelong and engaged member: look to create those opportunities if they do not already exist.

Celebrate achievements. What happens when a member completes a course, leads a session, or achieves a certification? Do you provide templates for them to share their achievements? Do you encourage them to continue the conversation in your online communities and establish their voice? Sometimes members need a little guidance on how to celebrate their successes and build their online reputation.

As leaders, we must create the right environment and opportunities that support and nurture Hispanic/Latino stakeholders within our associations. Taking these steps will help bring recognition to a large population of underrepresented individuals who are energized and ready to learn, grow, and give back to our organizations.

This is one of two articles contributed by ASAE’s Hispanic Association Executives Community as part of recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month.

Diana L. Dabdub

Diana L. Dabdub is director for admissions and recruitment affairs at the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges and chair of ASAE’s Gold Circle Awards Committee.

Josie Hernandez

Josie Hernandez, IOM, is an account executive at Bostrom Corporation, where she serves as executive director for DONA International; a 2022-24 ASAE DELP scholar; and cofounder of Association Latinos.

Ben Yzaguirre, CAE

Ben Yzaguirre, M.Ed., CAE, is senior director of faculty development and e-learning at the American Dental Education Association and a member of ASAE’s Professional Development Professionals Advisory Council.