The Value of Diversity: Why Care? The Numbers Will Set You Free!

Chew on these numbers and take into consideration the implications for you and your organization from the perspective of your customers and your employees - who you hire and whom you sell to. You will see great numbers to keep in mind when positioning your company, your next office and your next marketing push. Many of these numbers come from my work in the landscape, and business-to-consumer industries, which understood these numbers many years ago. Construction, manufacturing, and related industries are in the trenches and don't understand why so many other industries are not getting it.

  • Net immigration into our country is way up (no surprise here)
  • Hispanic residents are expected to double in the U.S. over the next half century, from 12% in 1999, to 24% in 2050 (crisis or opportunity?)
  • Domestic migration (within the U.S.) will continue to move to states in the South and West
  • Five states that will experience the largest population increase - CA, TX, FL, WA, and GA
  • Hispanics are the largest minority group in 14 of 24 states west of the Mississippi, as well as Florida and all of the northeastern states, and are the largest U.S. minority overall
  • Growth of the foreign-born population from 1990-2000:
    • United States 57% (total 13%)
    • California 37%
    • North Carolina 274%
    • Georgia 233%
    • Arkansas 196%

  • In Durham County, NC, 67% of all workers are Hispanic; in Gwinnett County, GA, 65%
  • From 1996-2002, Hispanics made up 13% of the U.S. population, but supplied 51% of new workers
  • 82% of workforce was white non-Hispanic in 1980, 73% in 2000, 53% in 2050

Now, when you talk about Hispanic/Latino immigrants, you have to discuss the difference between immigrants, their children born in this country, and their children's children. I am first generation American (first born in this country in my family) with a foot in both worlds - while embracing the U.S. or American culture, I also want to honor my parents' heritage, culture, and roots. Here is what we know about Latinos like me.

  • 12 million strong according to the U.S. Census Bureau
  • In 2000, first-generation Americans (or second-generation Latinos) accounted for 28% of the U.S. Latino population
  • Between 2000 and 2020...
    • The number of U.S. Latinos born to immigrant parents will grow 119% to represent 36% of all U.S. Latinos (Yes, 119%)

    • This compared to just 45% growth among immigrant Latinos and a
    • 71% increase in the Latino population overall, predicts the Pew Hispanic Center
    • Whites will only increase 14% in this same period

  • So there are two waves - the actual immigrants are the first wave and their children make up the second wave. And it's important to understand that religion and a tight-knit supportive extended family are crucial to this segment.

Industry leaders step up

So what are you going to do about it? I always say the demographic data does not lie and ignorance is not bliss. Remember - demographics are our destiny. This article should be a call to action, and if you don't have a bias for action after reading it, you deserve what is coming to you! Are you going to pretend like nothing is happening? Oh go ahead, turn aside, ignore what is happening right in front of you. We will see who is still standing in ten years, no, in five years.

Notice these trends:
...Salsa surpassing ketchup as our #1 condiment?
...Corona surpassing Heineken as our #1 imported beer?
...That the number one radio station in most top markets in the U.S. is Spanish speaking?
...Hispanic awards with big mainstream stars like Christine Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez
...The first Hispanic Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa (took until 2005?) or New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson?

You haven't been noticing the bilingual signage, the bilingual bank tellers (not to mention the ATMs) and telephone operators and telemarketers and the bilingual pieces you get in the mail? Oh wait, you may not be getting that literature or getting that call! I do.

By the way, when I Spanish-speaking telemarketer calls my home I tell them I don't speak Spanish and if the telemarketer is speaking English - I reply in Spanish (it does help to be bilingual). Reminds me of Freddie Prinze Jr.'s grandmother in his sitcom, who speaks only in Spanish, but seems to understand whatever is said in either language.

Latinos are getting mainstream attention and top billing and this is something I did not see when I was growing up in this country. Ignore the Hispanic/Latino influence in this country at your peril.

Pretend that you can continue to run your business the same way you always have - status quo - and expect increasing returns? Hogwash, get busy figuring out how to come out on top, how to see the opportunities upon us. Are you an entrepreneur or what? Don't know how?

One of the hottest jobs in 2006 in any field or industry may be your Director of Emerging Markets, Manager of Diversity Relations, Coordinator of Multicultural Markets, or Vice President of Diversity and Community Relations - call it whatever you want, but it will be a person who is part futurist and part change agent for your company.

Study and embrace the Hispanic/Latino emerging labor force and marketplace in your industry space and get there first, because once your competition figures this out and gets there first (and they will if they have not already figured it out) you'll be following. And you know the followers don't capture market share, they get the leftovers.

Immerse yourself in everything Hispanic/Latino. Start watching Univision, Telemundo or CNN Hispano. Join LULAC (The League of United Latin American Citizens) and National Council of La Raza and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Hire people with multicultural backgrounds. They don't necessarily have to be Hispanic/Latino but be professionals who are muticulturally savvy and comfortable and well versed in these emerging markets.

Pick up one of those Spanish newspapers, and please note that on Spanish radio and in Spanish newspapers is still a steal! Are you reading Hispanic Magazine, Latina, OYE or Tu Cuidad? Surf the web and go to or

Hire bilingual staff and post the "Hablamos Espaňol" and get ready to see what happens. Don't roll out your new Hispanic-Latino marketing and selling strategies in all of your units or offices all at once. Pilot it first in a particular area or region and just watch what happens and learn from your mistakes.

Study and understand the influence of family, language, culture, and religion on the Hispanic/Latino experience. Come to grips with your own biases and preconceived notions. They may poison your understanding of these free market forces at play that will make or break your organization. I close with a best practice organization and I think this is a glimpse into the future now.

I recently read an article about Wegmans Food Markets. I live near Washington Dulles airport in the Herndon/Dulles area of Northern, VA, near Washington, D.C. and my family loves Wegmans! This is an area where Hispanics/Latinos can make up as much as 40-70 percent of the area depending on how you slice it, and our region has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. At Wegmans in Dulles more than 200 of 650 workers do not speak English as their primary language. The store:

  • Provides job in English, Spanish, and Mandarin (think here!)
  • Offers workers take courses in English as a second language
  • Has a course for in Spanish for managers
  • Shows on employees' nametags whether they speak a language other than English to help non-English-speaking workers and customers

A spokesperson for Wegmans says, "hiring immigrant workers makes good business sense, filling low-paying jobs that many U.S. born workers don't want with employees motivated to move up through the ranks as they learn the language. Having a polyglot workforce can also boost sales and build loyalty among non-English speaking customers."

Mauricio Velasquez is president and CEO of The Diversity Training Group and Spanish Translation Services, LLC.

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