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Challenges Faced By Latino Millennials

Latinos need access to STEM education

Millennial Latinx’s are a thriving group that is attaining education levels higher than any previous generation in the United States but as many are discovering, obtaining a degree or profession doesn’t guarantee a solid job or automatic success.

In order to thrive, they have to be particularly resourceful and driven to make their mark in competitive job markets. Otherwise, they risk feeling lost, disappointed and not supported by anyone on their journeys.

It is important we take into account some the unique hurdles they face when entering the workforce.

They Are First Generation College Students

Here is one thing that is different for Latinx Millennials, many of them are first-generation college students and so they already had to beat enormous odds to make to college in the first place.

Data from the Education Department in 2012 reported that 61% of Latino students can be classified under the category, a sharp contrast with 25% of white and Asian peers and 20% higher rate than their African-American peers. What does this mean? It means that they don’t have anyone to lead the way for them and provide support that others might take for granted such as guiding them on how to deal with the pressures of college or how to navigate the job search. In addition, many students face the feeling of guilt for leaving their family for college in the first place and may face pressures to help out at home during college or immediately after graduation that makes them different from their non-Latinx peers. An article in The Atlantic pointed out that while large numbers of Millennials receive support from their parents, Millennials of color are less likely to receive support from their families and more likely to be expected to provide support to their families. 

They Lack Networks of Support

Parents might want to help but they often don’t know how to do so. Parents teach their Latinx kids values like hard work, perseverance and overcoming obstacles that make them ideal for any workplace but can offer little in terms of mentoring and career guidance, particularly if they are immigrants.

Social capital plays an integral role in a career trajectory, while “who you know” isn’t everything it does often get you a foot in the door. The kind of support where your parents can call in favors from various people in their social circle that can help you secure coveted internships, and even jobs. Where they can say, “Hey Samantha, I heard you want to be an attorney, maybe you should go to lunch with my friend So-and-So who just finished law school.” Latinx’s often don’t have this and are unaware of the inner workings of these systems of support. Mentorships, networking groups, Alumni groups, fellowships and other entities could make all the difference in the life of a young Latinx person.

Parents teach their Latinx kids values like hard work, perseverance and overcoming obstacles that make them ideal for any workplace but can offer little in terms of mentoring and career guidance, particularly if they are immigrants.

They Experience Impostor Syndrome

While impostor syndrome is often used to discuss feelings experimented by women this is also something often felt by people of color or from Latinx backgrounds. Impostor syndrome is when an individual cannot truly own their success and feels that they are “fraud” even when their accomplishments indicate otherwise. This could be attributed to certain factors such as lack of role models in their chosen fields and so it is hard to believe you are something that you have never seen.

If people like you are normally in subservient roles or you grow up with your parents showing deference to white people it can be very hard to step into your own power as a Latinx. This impostor syndrome can be particularly detrimental as it can mean that good candidates will disqualify themselves by not applying for jobs because they feel they are not “good enough” for a particular opportunity. This is a pattern that is seen as early as high school when students of color do not apply to universities and according to recent studies, “they also typically settle for safer, less challenging colleges and universities when they could have reached higher.”

Video: Andrea Guendelman is the CEO and Co-Founder of BeVisible Latinx

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They Don’t Know When To Ask for Help

Having navigated college with little support Latinx students can become accustomed to not asking questions for fear of standing out. This is detrimental to students who lack other systems of support and this might mean that they can go years without knowing things that could have been accessed through networking, or asking others for help. This can continue if they enter a place where they feel isolated due to a lack of peers they feel they can trust and lack of mentorship throughout their career.

They Lack Internship Opportunities

As the transformations into the innovation economy and the coming of automation, work experiences and high-skilled labor are becoming more in-demand.

However, for Latinos, attaining the work experience, which at times comes from unpaid internships or additional certifications that come with hefty prices leaves an unequal playing field to break into new sectors.

Household income disparity among non-white household can be the difference of a student being able to have the financial support to take on the unpaid internship to gain on-demand skills and connections to break into a competitive labor market.

Latinos need access to STEM education

They Lack Role Models

Latinos population in the U.S. is not represented in their representation in the workforce and higher-paying industries. While Latinos compromise more than 17% of the total U.S population, they are underrepresented in relation to their population in private sectors, and, especially STEM and leadership positions in the workplace.

In the field of STEM, Latinos make up only 7% of the STEM workforce and in the top seven silicon valley companies, Latinos made up 3% of the employees at the companies. In 2015, while Latina women made up 17% of the women population, the representation in leadership positions in the private sector workplace was 1.3%.

In addition, a Harvard Business Review collected data showing that (76%) Latinos repress parts of their personas at work. They modify their appearance, body language, and communication style to assimilate in work to advance.

Management positions are overwhelmingly white with Latinos making up less than 5% of senior executives in the private sector.

Yes, the challenges are great but so are the opportunities. Platforms like BeVisible Latinx are working hard to ensure that Latinx’s have support in every step of their careers from college to mid-career!

Andrea Guendelman is the CEO and Co-Founder of BeVisible Latinx a career social media career network that connects Latinos and Latinas across the country with companies searching for new talent. Follow Andrea Guendelman on Twitter@FutureofWomen