Leadership Series: Crashing Through the Silicon Ceiling

00B1A9AE00000578-2861607-image-m-358_1417739645548
Image by dailymail.co.uk

Last summer, the Washington Post printed an article to confirm what Latinos in Silicon Valley already knew to be true – Latinos and other people of color are grossly underrepresented in the valley’s workforce, especially in management. The numbers are abysmal.

Intel leads the pack of tech giants where only 8% of its employees are Latino. That’s double the percentage of other major high-tech firms. Twitter is in the basement with only 2% of its workforce identifying as Latino. These statistics include all employees: tech, non-tech, management, etc. Latino managers, directors, and executives represent just a fraction of those employees.

The Post article goes on to describe how management points to the lack of qualified Latino candidates and an education system that isn’t providing a pipeline of talented people of color. This is a common response for organizations and institutions that claim that the problem exists with the talent pool, not hiring practices. Although still woefully inadequate, the rate of Latino college graduates is twice the percentage of employees in Silicon Valley.

So what gives?

According to the Washington Post, Valley executives are beginning to listen to the notion that there are “unconscious biases that have given preference to white men.” This is a great start. Along with those revelations, HR teams are well aware of the challenges to change the mindset of large institutions. As Latino college admission and graduation rates rise over time, there may be someday in the future when this isn’t an issue. It could be decades before the bias demons are exorcised

Unfortunately, today, it’s a major problem and current Latino professionals can’t afford to wait for society to catch up with the reality that there is a large pool of candidates already in the pipeline. The National Society of Hispanic MBAs alone has over 30,000 members in 40 chapters across the country, including Silicon Valley.

The good news is that Silicon Valley seems to be responding to the Washington Post article. Over the past year, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have hosted events targeted at Latino professionals. The bad news is twofold. First, HR professionals have already said that tackling bias will take a long time. Second, these companies don’t know how to attract Latino talent. I’ll leave that issue for another blog post.

In the meantime, what are smart, talented, and ambitious Latino professionals to do?  Here are few tips that will get you started on your leadership journey:

  1. Work Hard

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Getting ahead takes an enormous amount of effort, commitment, and perseverance. There’s no other way around it. All of the successful people I’ve ever encountered were passionate and dedicated to their craft. This can take a million hours a week or far less, it just depends how you manage your time. Just make sure to give it your all. A college education gets you to the front door. Hard work gets you to the corner office.

As I made my way up the corporate org chart, I was the first to raise my hand when upper management was looking for someone to take on an extra project. When the corporate office executives needed support for an initiative, I packed my bags and traveled throughout the country to lend a helping hand. Soon, I was on the radar for promotion from manager to director to vice president.

This strategy seems to fly in the face of corporate America’s newfound philosophy on work/home balance. Let me just say this: the hardest working employees get first crack at promotion. There are ways to balance family life and an ambitious career. My wife Sandra worked her way up the education administrator ranks while I moved toward the executive suite. Yet, we always made time for our family (I’ll leave that for another blog post too).

  1. Find a Mentor

Learning to master a craft from a successful person is the best education you’ll ever get. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice once said that aspiring leaders should, “search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career.” In my career, the best mentors have been people who truly cared about my future. I’ve been blessed to have five men in my professional life that fulfilled that role.

Bob Williams, Percy Carr, Navarra Williams, Dave Walton, and Johnnie Giles have made an indelible imprint on my career. Bob, the manager at my first part-time job, was a master at team-building. Coach Carr is a hall-of-fame college basketball coach. I worked as his assistant in the late 80s and early 90s. He taught me the value of preparation and developing talent. Navarra, Dave, and Johnnie helped me understand the intense, yet delicate world of corporate politics.

The most valuable asset each of these men brought to me was a sincere interest in my growth and development as a leader. There are people like this in everyone’s life. You need to identify them and seek their guidance. One more piece of advice from Secretary Rice, “you don’t have to have mentors who look like you.” Just make sure that they genuinely care about your potential as a leader.

  1. Keep Learning

According to Pulitzer Prize historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, this concept is one of the ten qualities that made President Abraham Lincoln a great leader. Lincoln spent countless hours with generals in the White House and on the front lines of battle to better understand the science of warfare and the causes and effects of his decisions. He’s perhaps our nation’s greatest wartime president.

Make your personal development a priority. As a student of Goodwin’s theory, I’ve never hesitated at an opportunity to take advantage of leadership development. Among the many programs available to me, I studied community leadership as a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley and corporate leadership with the Comcast Executive Leadership Forum. Today, I continue to learn from the talented people I encounter in my role as a leadership coach.

The most exciting thing about the Latino future is that it’s happening right now. There are many talented professionals in the pipeline today. While it appears that institutions are warming up to the facts about Latino talent, we need to take matters into our own hands until they catch up. Start your leadership journey by taking positive steps toward crashing through the Silicon ceiling!

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Are you ready to make your next career move?

REGISTER TODAY for the July 16th  ESEReport.com Leadership Series “Foundations of Leadership Workshop.” Please contact Eddie directly with any questions at eddie.m.garcia@comcast.net. This will be an inspiring day of learning!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foundations-of-leadership-workshop-tickets-24943731372

To read the full Washington Post article, click here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/silicon-valley-struggles-to-hack-its-diversity-problem/2015/07/16/0b0144be-2053-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html

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Latino Thursday: The Next Generation of Leaders Looks Good

"Thank You" Poster Made by Luis Valdez Leadership Academy Student Leaders
“Thank You Poster”  by Luis Valdez Leadership Academy Student Leaders

One of my pet peeves is the phrase, “kids these days.” You know what I mean. What happened to the days when kids would speak only when spoken to and say “yes, ma’am” and “no sir.” Remember those days? My favorite is, “Kids these days don’t say ‘please’ when they want something or ‘thank you’ to show gratitude.

We old timers worry about what will happen when we get older and have to rely on the next generation to take care of us. What a mess, right? These kids can’t even write full sentences when they text. They would rather send “pics” on Instagram and Snapchat than pick up a phone or write a letter.

They listen to music that isn’t even music. What happened to the good old school days when you could understand the lyrics? Earth, Wind, and Fire. Santana. Al Green. Lionel Richie. Malo. Remember “Suavecito”?

That was music.

Many people my age wonder how kids these days will run the place when we retire. The old folks are sure that the world will go straight to the dogs when the youngsters take charge.

Well my dear readers, I absolutely, overwhelmingly, vehemently, and respectfully disagree!

I know we’ll be in good hands when the next generation of Latino leaders takes the helm. Let me tell you why.

During the last two school years, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to teach leadership classes at three east side high schools: Latino College Prep Academy, Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, and Roberto Cruz Leadership Academy. Latino students represent over 90% of the population at the schools. The program I teach is a six-week freshman course that provides students with the tools to present and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

The students learn how to set and plan goals, make professional presentations, and work in teams. They also do professional development exercises to help them with shaking hands, sitting and standing posture, making eye contact, and using body language to convey confidence. This is all done within the framework of understanding and respecting Latino cultural norms. The goal of the program is to send our kids to college and beyond with the self-assurance to succeed.

At Luis Valdez Leadership Academy (LVLA) I’ve been able to see the results of the program as the student government advisor. LVLA is in its second year of operation, so the student government is comprised of freshmen and sophomores. That means that these young leaders have an opportunity to set the cultural tone for the school well into the future.

After taking the six-week course, the elected leaders learned how to run a working decision-making government. The leadership group is large. There are four school-wide elected officers, class officers, and classroom representatives. In all, 23 students represent their peers to create and manage events and activities for the school year. In any governmental environment, a leadership team of that size is challenging to manage.

With that in mind, the student leaders are studying the fundamentals of the rules of order used by city halls, statehouses, and congress. They’re learning how to share their ideas with their fellow leaders through orderly debate and discussion. The students are using the committee system to tackle the details of putting their ideas into an actual plan.

After several weeks of intense training, the student government was ready to take on its first project. They decided to have a fall dance. As the first-ever dance in the school’s history, these young leaders felt much pressure to make the event successful. They had heated debates about the theme of the dance, the date, fundraising, the food and refreshments, decorations, and much more.

To have the event they wanted, student leaders had to raise $800 by selling tickets. They had less than three weeks to achieve this goal. That’s a tall order in a working-class neighborhood. Many on campus quietly shared concerns that the student council took on too much than they could handle.

Using the rules of order they learned, the young decision-makers developed a ticket sales and marketing strategy, and created a plan for a 100% student led and managed dance. I’ve been around many leadership teams in my career, and the students experienced all of the potential pitfalls and challenges that any team of leaders could confront. Through their raucous use of the democratic process, they worked through each barrier.

When the dust settled, here’s what happened:

LVLA had its first-ever school dance, they called it the “Falling for Fall” event. More than half of the student body attended. The student government made money on the event by raising over $1,000. The buzz on campus the next Monday was all about the dance. Everyone had a great time. The event was an overwhelming success by any and every measurement.

This gets me back to “kids these days.” Given the right tools and the confidence to succeed, Latino students will be exemplary leaders in the future. We’re in good hands. Today’s Latino civic and community leaders could learn a few things about teamwork and cooperation from the LVLA student government. In fact, so could our do-nothing United States Congress.

Oh, by the way, the student government planned and hosted an appreciation potluck for me and fellow advisor Mr. Osvaldo Ruelas, a young educator who is a future leader himself. The student leaders wanted to say “thank you” for the small role we played in supporting them.

Kids these days.

Latino Thursday: Let’s Play Presidential Hardball

Image by mediaite.com
Image by mediaite.com

As the Republican nomination circus rolls through cyberspace, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Yesterday, Donald Trump reposted a tweet with a variety of anti-Latino images featuring rival presidential candidate Jeb Bush posing with his Mexican-born wife and wearing a photo-shopped mariachi outfit. The retweet included the following caption, “ADIOS, JEB aka JOSÉ.”

I love the reference to “José,” the standard Mexican slur. That’s a good one, Mr. Trump. Very original.

Actually, the 2016 presidential race is starting to get interesting for Latinos.

Republicans continue to dismiss the fastest growing voter bloc in the country. To satisfy the Racist Right, new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already announced that comprehensive immigration reform will never see the light of day. The party doesn’t have the courage to refute Trump’s racist taunts. Same old you know what, different day.

On the other hand, Democrats remain strategically quiet on immigration reform. They appear supportive, but the support is lukewarm at best. None of the candidates for president has made reform a cornerstone of their campaigns. We might be subject to another election cycle when the latte liberal left takes Latinos for granted because the other side is so terrible for us.

There are some interesting developments that may put Latinos in the driver’s seat of the 2016 presidential race.

If the wacky base of the GOP comes to its senses and figures out that someone who has never served in public office would be a disaster for our country, the party’s best chance to win in November just may be a Latino, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The Bush team calls him “the GOP Obama.” It was meant to be an insult, but that could be bad for Democrats. Remember, President Obama is undefeated in presidential elections.

Latinos are a large voting bloc in the states with a bunch of the Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New York. Experts believe that Republicans need to win at least 40% of the Latino vote for a chance to win. President George W. Bush has been the only Republican able to poll those kinds of numbers since Latinos have emerged as a key voting bloc.

Only 18% of Latino registered voters are Republican. That means all registered GOP Latino voters have to cast a vote for their party’s nominee and over 20% of registered Democrats and independents have to crossover for a Republican to win. If Republican Latinos vote against their party for any reason, the GOP has big problems.

However, if the bilingual Sen. Rubio gets the Republican nomination and moderates his stance on immigration reform, the Democrats could be in trouble. He could saturate the Spanish language airwaves in his own voice to woo Latino independents and some conservative Democrats. This could be enough to get to the elusive 40% the GOP needs to secure a home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So what does this all mean? Latino voters have a shot to decide who will be the next President of the United States.

Let me explain.

Last week, a group of Latino GOP leaders made an ultimatum to the party. Stop disparaging the Latino community or else. The threat was directed to Mr. Trump, but it was clear that the demand could include others. Rosario Marin, the former Republican Treasurer of the United States, said, “Heed our warning, don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election…If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then.” These are tough words, indeed.

A Latino Republican rebellion could cause them to stay home on Election Day or vote Democrat. In both cases, the GOP has no chance to win. Of course, this probably won’t happen if the group of influential Latino Republican leaders gets its way or if Sen. Rubio is the nominee

If the GOP gets its act together and heeds Ms. Marin’s warning, things could get awfully close in the General Election next fall. In that case, Latino Democrats have to come out in big numbers for the Democratic nominee to prevail.

That brings us to the Democrats.

The Democratic Party historically has been favorable to Latino issues, but only as a sideshow. Let’s be honest, the party has taken the Latino vote for granted since the “Viva Kennedy” campaign in 1960. For more than a half century, we’ve been a loyal and automatic yes vote for the Democratic ticket.

President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise for comprehensive immigration reform took a back seat during his administration, yet Latinos voted for him overwhelmingly in 2012. Our community can’t let the Dems slide anymore. This time is different. The Democratic Party needs Latinos.

I tip my cap to former Treasurer Marin and her cohorts for having the courage to tell the GOP the way it’s going to be. If their party listens, it has a chance to win back the White House.

Latino Democratic leaders should take a cue from their Republican counterparts and let the party know that we no longer want to be relegated to the back seat. Comprehensive immigration reform is our issue. It crosses party lines. People need to safely come out of the shadows, families need to stay together. If the Democratic ticket won’t make this issue the centerpiece of its platform, Latinos should consider staying home next November.

Then, as we Latinos like to say, “Let’s see what happens.”

 

 

 

Latino Thursday: Luis Valdez Leadership Academy

LVLA-Logo

I was in the office at Luis Valdez Leadership Academy (LVLA) waiting to interview Founding Director Jeff Camarillo for today’s post. As I sat down, a student walked out of Mr. Camarillo’s office and his assistant poked her head into the door carrying several messages for him. Before she walked out of his office, he was on the phone taking a call.

I could hear Mr. Camarillo energetically brainstorming solutions with a colleague. He hung up, and before I could even see him, he enthusiastically welcomed me to the academy. Walking out of his office he greeted me with a big smile and hug, Latino style. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, right around the time that most people start feeling the after-lunch blahs. Not Mr. Camarillo, he was a bundle of energy.

The LVLA is a new charter school located in east San Jose. It’s the second high school chartered by the National Hispanic University Foundation. As the education community grapples with the Latino academic achievement gap and debates over the most effective way to close it, institutions like the NHUF are seeking out-of-the-box solutions like their flagship school Latino College Preparatory Academy and LVLA.

Charter schools are proliferating in Silicon Valley, especially in east side Latino communities. For the past three years, I’ve studied charter schools and their impact on Latino students and neighborhoods. Charters are publicly-funded schools that operate without being handcuffed by the constraints of traditional public school rules. This offers advantages to be sure. But the jury is still out.

There’s no real data yet on their long-term effect on Latino student success. In Silicon Valley, the chain charter schools, derisively called “McCharters” by opponents, have been criticized for questionable recruiting tactics in Latino neighborhoods. Their source of financial support also raises eyebrows. High-tech contributors stand to profit from the chain charter reliance on computer-based “blended learning.”

LVLA isn’t a chain charter school. It’s an innovative concept. Education leaders serious about closing the Latino academic achievement and college attainment gaps should pay attention to the formula developed at LVLA.

Let’s start with staffing. Director Camarillo is an Ivy League and Stanford educated son of a distinguished Stanford professor. The Dean of Instruction also studied at a prominent Ivy League university. The team of teachers includes many who are first in their families to go to college, so they will have an intimate and culturally conscious understanding of their students’ experiences.

The savvy staff will work in an environment of a college-going culture. Nearly all of the 95 incoming freshmen that represent the Founding Class just completed a two-week summer bridge program where they were introduced to the school’s vision. The program included events and activities at Stanford and U.C. Santa Cruz. A trip to visit East Coast universities is in the works.

When students walk through the doors on the first day of school on Monday, they will have a rigorous schedule of classes. The “A-G Checklist” that’s required to gain acceptance into the University of California and California State University systems is the default curriculum at LVLA. So the college-going culture isn’t just a feel-good tactic, it represents the core of daily academics.

Rather than focusing on computer-based learning, LVLA will implement the tried and true strategy of individualized teaching and guidance. Teachers are committed to getting to know each student and students will have an advisor that follows them through the four years they prepare for college. Add a visual performing arts program created for LVLA by the famed El Teatro Campesino and you have a robust curriculum.

The legendary playwright Luis Valdez was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The self-proclaimed “east San Jose homeboy” delivered keynote remarks that took the audience on an inspiring journey from the Latino struggle for civil rights nearly a half century ago to the innovative Silicon Valley school that now bears his name.

During my 20-minute interview with Director Camarillo, I could hear the passion in his voice and see the determination in his eyes as he described his vision for the future. As we were talking, from the corner of his eye he caught a mom and her son looking for the campus office. He jumped out of his chair, opened the window, and guided them to the office in Spanish. The mom smiled warmly knowing that her son was in the right place.

The vision, staff commitment, academic rigor, and extracurricular enrichment are all in place to make LVLA a great school. Now Mr. Camarillo and his team have to execute. After attending the school’s opening and spending a few minutes with the person who’s charged with leading the effort, there is no doubt in my mind that they’ll succeed. I walked off campus feeling confident that something special is happening on the east side.

Latino Thursday: The Border Crisis, Here We Go Again

Children sleeping in a detention center at the border (photo courtesy of latino.foxnews.com)
Children sleeping in a detention center at the border
(photo courtesy of latino.foxnews.com)

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a law requiring that unaccompanied immigrant children from Mexico and Canada be screened within 48 hours and sent back home. The law goes on to state that children from countries that don’t border the U.S. must be turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and go through a time-consuming immigration hearing process.

Over 50,000 children from Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras have crossed several international borders to arrive in the U.S. without their parents. According to the law, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials have handed the kids off to the HHS. The sheer number of children has overwhelmed HHS and immigration hearing officers. In the meantime, the kids are here.

Some people want to kick them out of the country immediately. Others want our government to welcome them with open arms. Congress wants to change the law to require these kids to be treated like Mexicans, a 48-hour screening and back to where they came from. President Obama wants more money to secure the borders and care for the children while the HHS processes them.

What a mess!

However this thing turns out, as a nation that wants to continue making progress on our journey to true democracy and freedom, we need to look at the impact of this border crisis from three perspectives: (1) The Humanitarian Crisis, (2) The Public Policy Crisis, and (3) The “Here We Go Again” Crisis.

The Humanitarian Crisis

It’s been all over the news. Children stuck at the border are sleeping in warehouses and prison-like military facilities, and eating less than nutritious meals. The HHS has attempted to provide more humane accommodations and healthier food. This has proven to be challenging as some local communities have expressed their disgusting desire to not welcome the youngsters.

In Murrieta, California, protesters turned them back by blocking federal buses, spitting at them, and spewing racist diatribes. We have to stop paying attention to these heartless people and take care of the children while the mucky-mucks in Washington try to figure it all out. That sounds humane to me.

The Public Policy Crisis

This is a tough one. Take away the political fringes of militarizing the border or opening it up to all comers, and the public policy answer is somewhere in the middle. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is the only way to get that done. If it’s up to our Tea Party conservative friends in Congress, that’s not going to happen in our lifetime.

Resolving the immediate issue is a challenge too. The President and cooler heads in The Capitol want to address the humanitarian issue before doing anything else. Others, including Latino Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar from Texas, say that we need to change the law to stem the tide from Central America first.

I don’t know the correct answers to these questions. For the sake of those scared and lonely children, I can only pray and hope that our leaders do something soon.

The “Here We Go Again” Crisis

Every time it gets dicey on the border or in poor Latino neighborhoods, the Latino community is painted with one wide degrading brush.  Read my  June 19th blog post to see how this phenomenon started: https://esereport.com/2014/06/19/new-feature-latino-thursdays/.

As images of kids gathering at the border fill the 24-hour news cycles, the anti-Latino crowd starts singing the same old song about drug smugglers, gangsters, and disease-carrying vermin that come along for the ride.

I saw Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and Congressman Rich Nugent on CNN express their “fear that gang members are invading our country” when discussing the current crisis. Here we go again! What a shame.

From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro to a kid sleeping on a cot in some warehouse tonight, Latinos exemplify what it means to be American.

Can the fear mongers just cut it out already? Negative stereotyping doesn’t do anything to help the kids at the border, nor does it do anything to help America. As my dad used to say, “first things first.” Let’s take care of the children.

Latino Thursdays: The Art of Being a Professional

(Stock Photo-www.htbsaccounting.com)
(Stock Photo-www.htbsaccounting.com)

I was 29 years old when I attended my first fundraising event. The guest of honor was a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.  I volunteered to help at the event that was held at an upscale art gallery in downtown San Jose. All I had to do was sign in attendees and collect donations, nevertheless I was anxious and a little intimidated. I had never been to a fundraiser or an art gallery.

As a kid, I remember that my dad used to say that every man should own at least one suit and a sports coat with a pair of slacks, so I had something handy to wear. I wore a gray two-button business suit, light blue dress shirt with dark blue tie, and cordovan penny loafers. The reason I remember what I was wearing so clearly is because it was the only dress clothes I had other than a tweed sports coat and navy wool dress pants.

The gallery was long and narrow. Modern art paintings hung on the walls and interesting sculptures sat on pedestals. White linen tablecloths topped tall cocktail tables and a small bar was staffed by a man dressed in a tuxedo.

A jazz trio softly played soothing tunes as men in business suits and professionally dressed women deposited checks into pre-printed envelopes, ate from small china plates, and chatted with other guests. It was like watching a well-choreographed dance.

After about an hour, the trio stopped playing and the event’s host introduced politicians and other VIPS to polite applause from the 40 or so guests. A few speakers enthusiastically praised the candidate, the candidate made brief comments, and the whole affair was done. Less than 15 minutes later, the gallery was empty.

Coming from a working-class Mexican American family, the only receptions that I knew about before that evening were related to weddings. The evening starts with mariachis entertaining guests, then dinner is served followed with a night of dancing. After the dance, family and close friends go to the home of the bride’s and groom’s parents for a nightcap. They all return for menudo the next morning. Total time: about 24 hours.

So here I was at the art gallery, 29 years old with a college degree, and I had just witnessed something that was completely out of this world for me. I was intrigued with the rhythmic nature of the event and fascinated that everyone knew how it worked. Since then, I’ve attended hundreds of receptions, breakfast events, luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties. It was on-the-job training on how to conduct myself on a professional stage.

I’ve learned that choice of attire, how you stand, sit, move about the room, and shake hands all send messages on your credibility as a professional. Nobody is watching, yet everybody is watching. The impression you make on others could be the difference in getting the dream job, earning a promotion, or landing that lucrative contract.

More Latinos than ever are graduating with college degrees. That’s a good thing. Armed with an education and a valuable piece of paper, we’re making inroads into the offices of corporate America, government, and education. Taking the next step into management is another proposition. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, just 8.5% of Latinos who work are in “management occupations.”

Most of those management positions are in the service industry. The percentage of government and education administrators is less than 7% and Google recently disclosed that only 3% of its workforce is Latino. I can’t imagine Google, or any other Silicon Valley tech firm, employing more than a handful of Latino managers.

So what does this mean?

Racial stereotypes play a major role in how managers look at their Latino employees. They expect us to be service employees, blue-collar workers, domestic help, landscapers, construction workers, and so on. Latinos may not even register with executives when developing a management team. But we can’t let these facts keep us out of the executive suite.

Unfortunately, many of us lack the confidence it takes to be considered for advancement. School systems don’t teach critically important skills like confidence, poise, and how to conduct oneself in a professional setting. For many working-class Latinos, our first job out of college is our initial exposure to the white-collar world. While we’re educationally prepared for the work, we don’t understand the subtle protocols of advancing through large professional organizations.

So what do we do about this?

As a corporate executive, I’ve learned that those of us who have attained management positions need to actively seek out talented Latinos and mentor them on the nuances of “climbing the corporate ladder.” Leadership programs focused on Latinos in business and education are popping up across the country. As a professional community we need to support these efforts.

Professional Latinos also need to share their time and wisdom at school career days. Our kids shouldn’t have to wait for a college degree and a job before they learn how to dress, stand, sit, shake hands, and speak as a professional.

Latinos are smart, talented, and ambitious. More times than not, ugly racial stereotypes get in the way of advancement. That is what it is. We need to overcome those obstacles. Those of us who have been blessed to have experienced professional success are obligated to make sure that the next generation walks into that first art gallery reception with poise and confidence.

Latino Thursdays: Do We Care About School?

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NEWS FLASH: Latinos DO Value Education

As the old saying goes, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me that Latino families don’t value education, I’d be a rich man.

During my four years serving on the high school board of trustees, the immediate response to any innovative idea on how to improve Latino educational achievement and attainment started with the “fact” that getting a higher education just wasn’t Latinos’ cup of tea.

These comments came from credible sources like school administrators, teachers and counselors, usually non-Latinos and a sprinkling of their Latino colleagues. The latter group’s worldview is puzzling to me and opens the door to an entirely different blog subject. We’ll leave that for another time.

I checked with the experts to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things. A pair of researchers from the University of New Mexico and the University of Massachusetts has studied these issues extensively. In their 2004 book on the topic, Professors Nancy Lopez and Raul Ybarra wrote, “non-Latino academics often refer to traditional family values as serious barriers that prevent access into higher education.”

According to Lopez and Ybarra, non-Latino academics claim that the rate of college attainment is “unlikely to change as Latino families value 2-year career-only degrees over a higher (four-year university) education.” The Latino professors rightly question the validity of this perception. I’d also like to know where the data is to support these broad statements. I couldn’t find anything.

To answer the question, the nationally-renowned Pew Hispanic Center went out and surveyed Latino families in 2009. Here’s what the survey said: 89% of Latinos agree that a college degree is important for getting ahead in life, 77% of Latino students ages 16-25 say their parents think going to college is the most important thing to do after high school, and just 11% say their parents think getting a full-time job after high school is important.

So there it is, straight from the caballo’s mouth. We do value education. So, what gives? Why does the data show that Latinos care about education, yet test scores and college attainment and completion rates continue to lag behind non-Latino counterparts?

The answers are no doubt complex. Academia and education policymakers will surely debate the merits of competing strategies on how to solve this problem for decades to come. In the meantime, education leaders need to find the courage to confront the misguided stereotypes and assumptions that create barriers for 89% of Latino students and 77% of their parents who want to take the college route. That way, we can get past assumptions and get to solutions.

Latino parents also have to get off the sidelines and participate in their children’s education. I know that could be intimidating. As long as the stereotypes and the obstacles they create persist, parents will continue to feel unwelcome. But we have to do it for our kids. Get to know teachers, go to back-to-school nights, attend after-school activities, volunteer, join the PTA. If we show the school system that educating our children is important to us, it will become important to them.

The good news is that that there’s solid evidence that the myth of Latinos not valuing education is just that, a myth. Once educators acknowledge and erase the negative images and parents get into the game, Latino students will be able to fully participate and benefit from the education system. The bad news is that I won’t become rich anytime soon. But that’s okay with me.

New Feature: Latino Thursdays

Frito Bandido (Image courtesy of jimhillmedia.com)
Frito Bandido
(image courtesy of jimhillmedia.com)

Please Note: Latino Thursdays isn’t just for Latinos!

Okay. I’ll get right to the point. I can’t say for sure what comes to mind when non-Latinos think about the Latino community. Given a lifetime of interactions with people from all walks of life, I can say that the image isn’t very good, not to mention grossly inaccurate. A long-ago war framed that faulty impression and the modern media is an ongoing source of the blurred representations.

First, let’s consider a quick history lesson. In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. Like the Gulf War of 2003, the official justification for war was different than the actual reason, which was the American ambition to acquire the Mexican lands of modern-day California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. As it turned out, the stars and stripes would win the territory as spoils of war.

As in all conflicts, politicians demonized the enemy. A congressional committee in 1845 reasoned that “pure white blood, against a mixed and mongrel race, composed of Indians, negroes and Spaniards, degenerated by the mixture of blood and color” assured victory over Mexico. After the war, California legislators passed the Greaser Act of 1855, which defined vagrants as “all persons who are commonly known as ‘Greaser’ or the issue of Spanish and Indian blood.” A stereotype was born.

The media has been on the front lines of cementing the myth of the lazy, dirty, thieving, simple-minded, drunkard Mexican. Take a minute to watch an old Hollywood western and you’ll see what I mean. My earliest memory of Mexicans on TV was the Frito Bandido advertising campaign from the late 60s and early 70s. I still remember hanging the black cardboard mustaches that came in each bag above my lip so I could look like a marauding bandido. I looked just like my dad, only he wasn’t a bandit.

During the past century, Spanish-speaking people from all over the western hemisphere have come to the United States. Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Dominicans, Salvadorans, others from all points south, and American-born Latinos are all dumped into the same stereotypical bucket. Today, images of Latino drug dealers, gangsters, “illegal” immigrants, and welfare moochers flood the media.

The good news is that in recent years we’ve reversed the” lazy” myth as most Americans believe that Latinos have a strong work ethic. The bad news is that belief applies only to those who toil in menial and back-breaking physical work. The white-collar Latino hasn’t even reached the American consciousness yet.

Despite a growing population and modest inroads in economic and political influence, generalized Latino images still result in unjust misunderstandings. How do I know this? In more than 25 years working at the highest levels of the corporate, local government, and education worlds, I’ve heard non-Latinos say the darnedest things about us. I don’t believe these off-the-cuff comments are made in malice or with racist intent. Rather, the remarks are the result of over 160 years of misinformation started by a war of conquest.

For those who think Latino Thursdays on East Side Eddie Report.com will be a pity party dwelling on past sins and injustices, guess again. A historical review of the distorted picture that is the Latino image provides a foundation to understanding what caused it in the first place. With that knowledge, we can remove some of the barriers and embark on the road to clarification.

So what is a true reflection of Latinos? Some of us are smart and some of us aren’t that smart. There’s a small segment that is bad, evil, and criminal, but a vast majority are people striving to improve their lot in life and make the future better for their families.  We come in black, white, and every shade in between. Latinos are short and tall, gloomy and optimistic, funny and serious, festive and boring.  In short, we’re human beings.

By writing stories, commenting on news events, and doing profiles of people I admire, I’ll give my take on the dynamic, complex and misunderstood being that is the American Latino. Be assured that I won’t just highlight the positive. I plan to provide commentary on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’m a fourth generation Mexican American boy from the east side, so keep in mind that my perspective comes from a small segment of a large and diverse group of people. I hope not be the last word on each post. I want to be challenged by Latinos and non-Latinos alike about what I write so I can learn as much as I can about who we are.

That’s what Latino Thursdays is all about. I hope it will be a vehicle to dispel some of the myths and be a source of understanding a community that will represent one-fourth of our nation’s population by century’s end.

The Cesar Chavez Legacy

0000_cesar-chavez

On Friday, President Obama released a proclamation that read in part,

“I, Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2014, as Cesar Chavez Day.”

In commemoration of Cesar Chavez Day, I share one of his most important speeches, “1984 Address to the Commonwealth Club.” In that speech, Cesar describes how the farmworker movement gave hope to a Latino community seeking fairness, justice, and true equality.

With one powerful quote, he lays out the future of Latinos in the United States:

“Like the other immigrant groups, the day will come when we win the economic and political rewards which are in keeping with our numbers in society. The day will come when the politicians do the right thing by our people out of political necessity and not out of charity or idealism.”

I hope you take a minute to read the entire speech by clicking on the following link:

http://www.chavezfoundation.org/_cms.php?mode=view&b_code=001008000000000&b_no=16&field=&key=&n=8

Educating Latino Students is a Team Effort

(Stock Photo - www.csusb.edu)
(Stock Photo – http://www.csusb.edu)

Since my tenure on the school board, I’ve been an advocate of investing in raising expectations for Latino students.  With my ongoing blog discussion about this issue, I’ve heard from many readers, especially teachers.  One educator wrote, “It all starts with the priorities in the home.”  Another commented that, “Latino parents need to know that their involvement is critical and necessary.”

A parent responded to the teacher comments by asking, “Can you educate parents on district policies for enrolling our kids and what to do?” That’s an important question.  Another teacher agreed with that parent and described how she and her colleagues invest time in families because “parents want to help their kids but they don’t have the tools to do it.”  So who’s right?

They’re all correct.  Every study about student success identifies strong parent support as an essential factor.  This component makes up one of the four legs of the stool that holds up high achievement in school.  The other three legs are high academic standards, sufficient resources, and high student expectations.  California schools are addressing standards and resources, but haven’t invested in engaging Latino parents or raising student expectations.  Why is this?

Raising academic standards and allocating sufficient resources are concepts that are easy to understand.  Test score goals and a college-prep curriculum are measurable, so policymakers just need to adjust the benchmarks to raise those standards, which is starting to happen around the state.  Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula provides school districts with funding based on the demographic profile of their students, so financially underprivileged students will have more access to resources.

Increasing parent engagement and raising student expectations are harder to understand.  Immigrant Latino parents know little or nothing about our school system and American-born Latino parents are products of the very same system of low expectations that is hampering their kids.  Our school systems can’t expect parents to set academic priorities for their children if they don’t even have the means to understanding those priorities.

The misconception within education circles is that Latino parents don’t care about academic success and don’t make school a priority at home.  When I served on the school board in east San Jose, a predominately Latino community, I found the opposite to be true.  Latino parents were constantly asking me for advice about how to access district administration to share their concerns and seek counsel for their children.

Many school districts have active Latino parent groups that advocate for their students with few resources allocated by the district.  With the new funding formula, school leaders now have an opportunity to invest in parent groups that want to be more engaged with their students’ education.  For those who say ALL parent organizations, not just Latino parents, should have access to more district resources, my answer is “absolutely yes.”

Raising expectations for Latino students is a little trickier.  This is an issue I’ve discussed in past posts.  Proponents of educational equity and culturally relevant teacher development have argued with solid evidence that school systems have been historically biased along racial lines, thus creating an environment of low expectations for students of color.  In fact, educational equity experts call this the “missing link” in academic achievement.  I call it the fourth leg on the stool.

Despite recommendations from the state superintendent of schools and a Silicon Valley Education Foundation report, investing in a comprehensive program to address these real issues has been non-existent.  During the last decade of school budget-cutting, policymakers haven’t even considered addressing the fourth leg of the stool.  Local control funding provides a historic opportunity to change this.

Academic standards are rising and new school funding formulas are increasing resources.  With a growing Latino population, our education leaders can no longer accept the argument that the foundation of academic achievement can only be started “with priorities in the home,” especially when parents are asking for the tools to build that foundation.   Educators play a major role in the foundation of academic success and it must start with high student expectations.

By the same token, Latino parents can no longer relinquish the role of setting the foundation of academic success solely on the school system.  If school systems provide tools for parents and welcome them to engage in their children’s education, then Latino parents must meet their obligations and responsibilities to guide students toward a successful academic career.

Ensuring a robust economic future for California will hinge on the success of today’s Latino students, who will make up a majority of the state’s breadwinners within a generation.   We can no longer put all of the responsibility on the school system, nor can the school system merely rely on the home to achieve this.  California’s future rests on a team effort.  Schools need to provide all four legs of the stool to achieve success, and Latino parents and students need to answer the call.

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