September 25, 2023

The dos and don'ts of celebrating cultural observances in the workplace

Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month has been widely celebrated in the United States for decades. As more companies develop diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, leaders and employees look for authentic ways to celebrate heritage months and cultural observances.

Authentic celebrations are free of exploitation, appropriation, and performative activism. This requires leaders to bring diverse employees into the conversation, give credit and compensate team members for their ideas and involvement, and invest in their employees’ professional development all year round.

Perfeqta is here to help your organization nurture an inclusive environment and support diverse talent, so we outlined best practices when celebrating cultural observances in the workplace.

Here’s what companies should not do

Exploitation, appropriation, and performative activism have no place at work. Below are a few examples of what this looks like.

  • Exploitation is when a company takes advantage of an employee or employees to profit from them. For example, a company leader asks a Hispanic or Latinx team member to work an additional 10 hours a week to create a cultural marketing campaign, but does not compensate them for the overtime.
  • Appropriation is when a company uses ideas or art as its own without giving credit to the original creator. For example, a company incorporates cultural phrases or visuals into a marketing campaign but doesn’t source where the language or art originated.
  • Performative Activism is when a company is more focused on appearing diverse and inclusive, rather than working towards being more diverse and inclusive. For example, a company creates a Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month external campaign, yet the company has no plan to create a culture of belonging for Hispanic and Latinx employees or increase representation.

Here’s what companies should do

Recognize that Hispanic and Latinx communities do not fit under one umbrella

Their ancestors can come from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America. Not every Hispanic and Latinx person is bilingual and not everyone speaks Spanish. Hispanic and Latinx people are also different races, which is why a Black Latinx person may not have the same shared experiences as a white Latinx person in the United States.

It’s essential to acknowledge and embrace the many identities within the Hispanic and Latinx communities when planning events and programs that are inclusive of everyone.

Amplify the Hispanic and Latinx communities that exist within your organization

If your company has an Employee Resource Group for Hispanic and Latinx employees, connect with them to see what events and initiatives they have planned for the month. Provide them with enough resources and a budget to carry out their programming ideas, and share open events across the company so non-ERG members can also get involved.

And remember, for any employees who are working outside of their job description, compensate them for their contributions.

Educate yourself on the culture and history of Hispanic and Latinx communities

Besides food and music, what do your employees know about Hispanic and Latinx culture? Take the time to learn more about Hispanic and Latinx industry leaders, the history of Hispanic and Latinx people coming to the U.S, and how every team can create a more inclusive workplace culture.  

Providing your employees with educational material will increase awareness of their privilege and unconscious bias, and help team members identify programming ideas beyond Happy Hours and office parties.

Identify how your company is supporting Hispanic and Latinx employees all year round

Be prepared to share what your organization is doing to support your Hispanic and Latinx employees beyond the months of September and October.

Hispanic and Latina women typically earn only 49 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. Hispanic and Latina women also make up just 1.6% of senior executives in the nation’s largest companies.

This month is a great opportunity for your company to begin addressing any pay gaps and identify how you will invest in your employees to prepare them for advancement through career coaching, leadership training, and other professional development opportunities.

Learn more about leading with an inclusive lens.

Download our free resource guide, The Executive’s Guide to Inclusive Leadership. We share actionable strategies for company executives who want to lead with empathy, practice allyship, and make decisions rooted in equity.

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