Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: A Guide for Employers
This month is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year from September 15 to October 15, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the contributions, cultures, achievements and histories of people whose heritage is rooted in 20 countries and territories: Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
National Hispanic Heritage Month began as just a week-long celebration in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. “National Hispanic Heritage Week” was celebrated by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus bringing media attention to notable Hispanic American contributions to the United States and increasing awareness of the legislative interests of the Latin-American community. In 1987, President Ronald W. Reagan signed the bill to expand Hispanic Heritage Week into a month-long celebration starting on September 15 to honor the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Likewise, Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on September 16th, and Chile observes the 18th of September as its independence day.
As of 2021, the Census Bureau estimates that there are roughly 62.6 million Hispanic people in the U.S., making up 19% of the nation’s population. Hispanic American Heritage Month is celebrated across the country in many ways to bring communities together, including concerts, parades, food fairs, art exhibitions, book readings, and more that focus on the contributions and influence of Hispanic people. This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month theme is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” chosen by the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers (NCHEPM).
As an organization or an employer outside the community, one of the best ways to observe Hispanic Heritage Month is to educate your employees about inclusivity and diversity. Diversity is one of the greatest strengths an organization can have. Yet, it requires effort to understand cultural nuances and utilize proper rhetoric that would make a place genuinely inclusive of all its members. This Hispanic Heritage Month, take the time to speak with your workers of Hispanic heritage and gather what their preferred terms are, or if they have insights to help make them feel valued and respected within your company. With so many words used interchangeably for Latino or Hispanic community members, it’s important to be thoughtful and inclusive with your language. Providing resources to employees via newsletters, email, or during meetings can create opportunities for a more open dialogue about diversity in the workplace.
Another way to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month year-round is to regularly conduct pay audits to strive for pay parity amongst all employees and make adjustments if necessary. In 2020 Latinas were compensated just 57% of what non-Hispanic white men were for equal work. Striving for pay equity also means transparency with your employees and the public. Publishing your reports will help you remain accountable for narrowing the wage gap and will show your commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Hispanic Heritage Month is an excellent opportunity for organizations to celebrate their diverse talent and share and learn from colleagues from many backgrounds. As an employer, you can take meaningful action toward creating an inclusive workplace where workers can not only feel valued, but also thrive.