By Gabriela Mirensky on Oct 12, 2021
Our very own One Show Director speaks about Hispanics within the advertising industry and beyond
I never knew I was going to become part of a ‘special interest group’ when I moved to the United States. I had no idea I would be labeled Hispana or Latina, in that fascination that we have in the U.S. with labeling people as if by adding a label we could make everything fit neatly on a shelf...
The reality is that Hispanic is a term used to refer to a group that is all but homogeneous: depending on the region we come from we have different accents and eat different foods; we present in every skin color and practice a variety of religions. Maybe the one common denominator is that we—or our ancestors—have Spanish as their first language. But even then, with a common tongue, the same word can mean very different things in each country.
What, then, makes us Latinos, and why does it matter?
From a business perspective, Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing sector of the American economy. For those of us who do better with visual references, if the U.S. Latino market was its own country, it would be the 8th largest economy in the world—larger than Brazil and more than twice the size of Mexico. Still, Latino representation in C-suite positions is far from proportionate.
Contrary to widespread perception, a large share of Latinos in the U.S. speak English proficiently, and 3.6 million have some college experience. Why, then, are old stereotypes still commonplace when marketing to the Hispanic community? Why do we still see highly sexualized ads? Do those outdated clichés persist because, as a community, we haven’t manifested that we no longer identify with them?
If this is the case, it is up to us to change the way we are perceived, portrayed, and addressed.
"Do those outdated clichés persist because, as a community, we haven’t manifested that we no longer identify with them? If this is the case, it is up to us to change the way we are perceived, portrayed, and addressed."
It is a massive change and it won’t happen overnight, but we can start with our own industries: increasing the number of professionals in design and advertising who, instead of having to de-Latinize their ways in order to be heard, are brought in precisely because their point of view, shaped by their cultural background, matters.
Having a greater representation of Hispanics in decision-making positions in the marketing departments of brands is another necessary step. As of October 2019, only 5% of CMOs are Hispanic or Latino. This is a huge gap considering Latinos make up almost 20% of the U.S. population. Successful role models like Antonio Lucio, Mark Pritchard, and Fernando Machado have done a lot to bring awareness to the current attributes and more sophisticated preferences of the Latino community in the U.S., but a whole lot remains to be done.
If we want to effect change, we need to be leaders. Is our Hispanicity a hindrance to being eyed for leadership positions? Maybe the result of a history of oppression, Latinos are taught to be humble, to obey, to not draw attention to themselves [politicians and celebrities excluded]. Definitely not characteristics you find in influencers!
There is another side to our heritage and upbringing: empathy, passion, and an innate necessity to make everyone feel welcome. These are behavioral traits you do want to see in your leaders, especially helpful when you need to create and motivate effective teams and reach group consensus.
As Latinos, we need to constantly negotiate these two sides of our cultural DNA, while also learning and incorporating character traits required to be compelling leaders. This is in addition to the usual challenges that pacesetters of all backgrounds face, of course.
Let’s show up and join the dance, shall we?
Para bailar La Bamba se necesita una poca de gracia,
una poca de gracia, y otra cosita…
Gabriela Mirensky is an Argen-Mex designer of Russian and Italian descent who has spent most of her life in New York City.
RELATED FROM THE ONE CLUB:
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, The One Club for Creativity was joined by Rafael Esquer, Daniel Lobatón, Isabel Sierra Gómez de León, and Ariana Stolarz to amplify Hispanic voices, stories, and perspectives by bringing awareness to the diversity and evolving communities they represent.