Closing the Hispanic leadership gap: Why it's in everyone's best interest


Last Monday, I visited a hospital. Victor, the Uber driver, got me there safely. My nurses, Maria and Cristina, spoke Spanish to me. After I left the hospital, I met with Zaira, a prominent PhD in the field of quantum computing. Then, when I got back home, Rodrigo got me the mail.

I am Hispanic, so perhaps I am more likely to take note of other Hispanics and the work they do. But then again, with Hispanics representing one out of every five workers in this country, it would be hard not to take note.


This is especially true during the pandemic when, as The New York Times reports, Hispanics and people of color disproportionately work on the frontlines, serving as EMTs and healthcare professionals, delivering food and packages, and filling other roles essential to our well-being and sanity.

Step back from the frontlines to the C-suites and corner offices of US businesses, however, and it’s a different story. Hispanics represent 18.5 percent of the population in this country, but just 4 percent of the executive ranks.

Hispanics represent 18.5 percent of the US population, but only 4 percent of executive ranks.

The incongruity is stranger when one considers our economic power. Annually, Latinos and Hispanics contribute USD 2.3 trillion to US GDP. To put it another way, if Hispanic GDP contribution were its own country, it would be the eighth-largest economy in the world, just behind that of France.

A vibrant economy has many layers vital to effective functioning. Victor and Rodrigo perform essential roles that make our society better, and Maria, Cristina and Zaira show the professional depth of Hispanics in our society.

But if our economy is to thrive and innovation to grow, we need increased representation on the top floor, in upper management. For that to happen, we have to determine the conditions that enable such inclusion—the patterns and characteristics that make success not only possible, but probable. How did the 4 percent of Hispanics who advanced to positions of leadership get there? What can we learn from their experience, and will any of that be relevant to the next generation of leaders?

As part of its research into people and development, the IBM Institute for Business Value recently surveyed Hispanics in the US to find out. The full report will be available in December 2020, but you can see some early data in this infographic. One key finding is that professional advancement opportunities have played a crucial role in helping senior Hispanic executives achieve their success.

But the survey also shows that younger leaders are not getting those advancement opportunities.

  • Only 30 percent of junior managers say they have access to mentorship programs or on-the-job training. 
  • Only 20 percent say they are empowered to overcome their professional challenges. 
  • Most worrying, 67 percent say that they have to work harder to succeed because of their Hispanic identity.

These findings show us what success looks like. Our next step is to turn these learnings into action. When I think of my own journey, three factors helped me succeed: education, mentorship, and advocacy. At IBM, we’re taking steps to advance all three.

  • The IBM P-TECH program is already active in 75 school districts located in predominantly Hispanic communities. Over the next two years, we plan to double this number. By 2023, we will have 150 active programs in schools that serve Hispanic students.
  • In addition, IBM is kicking off the IBM Mentorship Marathon to empower Hispanics and advance their career opportunities. The Marathon will begin with P-TECH schools in the U.S. by matching 1,000 IBM mentors with the students, and encouraging other Fortune 500 companies to join the effort. This initiative will also benefit all our P-TECH students in the U.S.
  • I, personally, am increasing my commitment to mentoring Hispanics, advocating for their advancement to leadership positions and creating economic opportunity for Hispanic entrepreneurs.

But success will take all of us—corporate leaders, NGOs, innovators, and average citizens—working together.

A society in which the Hispanic community thrives is the kind of society I would like to live in over the next decade. And it’s not just because I’m Hispanic. It's because investing to help the growing, youngest minority group in the US will help everyone in the country as we shape a more inclusive, more diverse, and better-performing society.

To see the numbers, please download our infographic.

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Meet the author

Jesus Mantas

Jesus Mantas
Senior Managing Partner, IBM Consulting