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1999 Hispanic Heritage Month: A Vision for the Future

Hispanic Heritage Month: A Vision for the Future
Suggestions for Hispanic Employment

Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to focus national attention upon the contributions of the Hispanic community to American society. By presidential proclamation, the tributes and celebrations stretch from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and include Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day) and the independence days of Mexico and several Central American and Caribbean countries. 

Each year Hispanic Heritage Month is observed by increasing numbers of agencies. Most of the activities help to spread the word about Hispanic culture and individual and community achievements. These observances accentuate the positive aspect of Hispanic culture in a time when Hispanics are often portrayed negatively by the media. 

When you include the population of Puerto Rico, Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the country, passing non-Hispanic blacks for the first time in History. By 2050, nearly one-quarter of the population will be Hispanic. In a recent article, Christy Haubegger, founding editor of Latina Magazine said "The [African-American] civil-rights slogan was 'We shall overcome' - "Ours is going to be 'We shall overwhelm'." This demographic upheaval unfolding across America has inspired new energy and interest in Hispanic diversity. 

However, this article is not about demographics. Our colleagues at the Census Bureau can provide you with all the data you need. Instead, I want to respond to your e-mail requests, so let's talk about Hispanic employment. 

While Hispanic observances have succeeded in making agencies aware of the Hispanic contributions to America's history, very few agencies have succeeded in significantly increasing the representation of Hispanics in the Federal workforce. Hispanics are still the only underrepresented minority group in Federal public service, particularly in the Senior Executive Service. 

In June of 1998, I had an amazing opportunity to design and co-facilitate a group interview process for the first Hispanic Executive Summit held in the White House conference center. This historic meeting of 80 Hispanic and 40 other senior executives was the first officially sanctioned conference of Hispanic senior executives which focused on eliminating the under-representation of Hispanics. 

The meeting, proposed by the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives (NAHFE) and sponsored by the Department of Energy, Office of Personnel Management and the White House Office of Presidential Personnel resulted in a comprehensive body of recommendations for the President's Management Council

Increased attention on Hispanic issues by the Office of Personnel Management signals an emerging interest in creating more diverse organizations, serving a changing customer base and seeking greater stakeholder participation in problem-solving. 

The following is the beginning of a planned approach I have developed for correcting systemic barriers to Hispanic Employment. Keep in mind that when we look at systemic indicators (the big picture), we discover issues that inhibit all aspects of Diversity. 

Here are four ideas to consider: 

First, we must continue to support the OPM nine and ten-point plans for improving Hispanic representation in the Federal government. These initiatives suggest many traditional efforts in the areas of SES development, recruitment, student programs, career development and accountability. 

Second, seek to involve human resource practitioners in accountability for EEO and Diversity. Human resource staff play an essential role in effectively recruiting Diversity groups for employment. We are developing specialized training to help them in their efforts. Clear performance measures and more involvement in Diversity planning will help to highlight their important contributions. 

Third, Collect better data. The Uniformed Guidelines for Employee Selection, Title 29 CFR Part 1607 helps to ensure diversity by providing a uniform set of principles to govern selections. It is appropriate to conduct adverse impact analysis when selection procedures adversely impact anyone, protected group. If this data were readily available, more agencies would be able to pinpoint problem areas in the employment process. This critical data can really help to focus your efforts and win support for your initiatives. 

Finally, Let's get the word out. According to a 1997 Merit Systems Protection Board government-wide survey of managers, a majority of all managers and supervisors, and in particular 49% of the Hispanics responding, did not believe there was a problem with Hispanic under representation. We must get the information out to our managers and supervisors. 

Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to reaffirm the Federal policy of having a workforce that represents America. Diversity, Human Resource, and EEO professionals will play an essential role in raising awareness about Hispanic employment concerns. Thanks for your continuing interest. I'll see you at the NAHFE Conference on October 26, 1999. My hope is to see more managers who are ready to take it to the next level. 

Fred Soto M.Sc. is an author, speaker, and Director of the Institute for Applied Leadership in Orlando Florida. For more information, contact him at   or 407-522-3881. For information on the NAHFE Conference call 703-787-0291.

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