As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, a new report highlights the economic potential of the rapidly growing Hispanic workforce.
When it comes to understanding the impact that Hispanic people—the fastest-growing minority population in the U.S.—will have on the economy in the coming decades, following the data is a good place to start.
A new report published by Peterson Institute for International Economics, a private, nonprofit and nonpartisan policy-research organization, predicts that Hispanic workers will have an increasingly positive effect on U.S. economic growth in the coming years. Estimates suggest that Hispanic workers will contribute around 0.21 percentage points to the annual real GDP growth in the U.S. over the next three decades and, by 2025, the increase in employed Hispanic workers could contribute more to the U.S. GDP growth than non-Hispanic labor. Also, between 2019 and 2048, Hispanic individuals will account for 85% of new job holders in the U.S. workforce.
“The Hispanic community’s deviation from the U.S. average on two key parameters [higher education levels and smaller families] has historically fed political stereotypes of a growing but economically disadvantaged U.S. minority community,” wrote the authors, Gonzalo Huertas and Jacob Funk Kirkegaard. “The Hispanic community’s recent convergence to the U.S. average, however, tracks along largely the same path of earlier waves of immigrants coming to the United States.”
The report, entitled The Economic Benefits of Latino Immigration: How the Migrant Hispanic Population’s Demographic Characteristics Contribute to U.S. Growth, was sponsored by EY. It represents the company’s interest in developing a deeper understanding of diversity and inclusion—especially since about 40% of the 15,000 college graduates and experienced professionals it hires each fiscal year fall into an ethnic-minority category.
“Since I’ve been [at EY] since the ’90s, the definition of diversity has certainly expanded,” says Ken Bouyer, EY’s Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting. “Initially, it was about gender and a minority population inside the firm. That’s obviously changed over the years to include veterans, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and generational diversity. So, we’re focusing on [diversity] very broadly.”
Bouyer noted that EY’s focus on diverse hiring has been developed in part to drive innovation and thought leadership, and also to better reflect the firm’s diverse book of clients and prospects. Each fiscal year in the U.S., the firm hires about 10,000 college graduates and 5,000 experienced professionals. Of all the new hires, about 50% are women and about 40% are ethnic minorities, with crossovers within the two groups.
It’s not surprising that creating a welcoming culture for Hispanic and other diverse populations involves conversations—a lot of them. For example, brand-new minority professionals attend a program called EY Unplugged.
“We spend a few days with them … with people like myself who have been around forever talking to them about our experiences,” says Bouyer, who is African American and also sits on the advisory board of the Association of Latino Professionals For America.
“We call it an unplugged session [because] they get a chance to ask us questions. Many times, these folks are first-generation college students, as I was, and I get a chance to share with them my experiences with the firm and what it means to be in corporate America and be an EY professional,” he says.
A centerpiece of EY’s annual Milestones professional-development program for newly promoted managers and senior managers is a session on unconscious bias led by Harvard psychologist Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, author of Blind Spot. The focus, Bouyer says, is to educate the entire population of the firm about the challenges of D&I.
“As we diversify as a firm, we want to make sure we have an environment that is truly inclusive, and all our people feel like they belong,” he says, adding studies show that everyone can bring bias into the workplace and that open discussions are one way to address that issue. “That is a challenge that has been around for a while and will continue to be around.”
The elephant in the room, of course, is the ongoing and sometimes loud political debate about the impact immigrants—and Hispanics, in particular—have on U.S. society. Aside from supporting research like the PIIE’s report, EY has tackled the challenge of addressing the disconnect between what people hear about the value of diversity in the workplace and what they hear in the public sphere. Its Day of Understanding program late last year convened a firm-wide in-person and virtual meeting to open discussions.
“There was no agenda,” Bouyer says. “We just said, ‘Hey, tell us what’s on your mind.’ ” As a result, people shared their experiences about being a minority in the world and in the workplace. Not surprisingly, there were emotional stories that included, as he says, “people embracing one another … and tears at times.”
Another statistic of note is that, during the period after the Great Recession, foreign-born U.S. residents have been about twice as likely as native-born residents to start their own businesses; as of 2016, one in five new firms were owned by foreign-born entrepreneurs.
These stats have an impact on both workforce diversity and business strategy, notes Bouyer.
“We’ve got to make sure we have the appropriate representation in their offices or consulting with them, [that] we understand the marketplace, and the cultural aspect and nuances in that community,” he says. “If you want to be a leading organization and continue to be a leading organization like we are, there’s no question in my mind that this is a community that we must not ignore.”
“I also want to encourage people to read below the headline,” Bouyer adds. “Make sure you understand the cultural nuances of different groups, because I think that’s going to be critical to your success on the inclusion side.”