For Hispanics in the U.S., the time is now
Claudia Romo Edelman is rallying Latinos to better understand and fully exercise their power.
Claudia Romo Edelman has been a marketer nearly her entire life. With more than 25 years of experience working at a number of different organizations — including the United Nations, World Economic Forum and UNICEF — focused on global affairs and social causes, Romo Edelman’s approach has always remained clear: highlighting the best attributes in whatever kind of contribution to the public good she is trying to make.
Whether it was work fighting against diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, or fighting social problems, like poverty and maternal mortality, Romo Edelman has always remained diligent in putting that particular component at the forefront.
That approach has led Romo Edelman to become the global leader she is today, using both her voice and actions to advocate on behalf of the Hispanic community to help them better understand and fully utilize their power.
“I know what it feels [like] to be the only Mexican... that [someone] ever met,” she said during an interview with AL DÍA Founder and CEO Hernán Guaracao. “And I went into rooms [where] … they saw me as someone completely exotic.”
That was an experience she endured while she worked for the secretary general at the United Nations.
However, when she got the job at UNICEF to move to the United States in 2014, she entered a new reality, and was excited to learn that she was a “Hispanic.”
“I never knew there was such a thing as a Hispanic,” noted Romo Edelman. “I grew up thinking I was Mexican.”
In preparation for coming to the U.S., Romo Edelman took on the task of learning as much as she could about the Hispanic community. As a marketer, she was super interested in the data.
According to Forbes, Hispanics currently have $1.7 trillion in purchasing power, and account for almost half of U.S. population growth with an average age of 29 years old. Hispanics also make up around 18% of the total U.S. population; however, in most other areas, Hispanics are underrepresented.
Looking at the numbers, Romo Edelman found that the Hispanic community is essentially the middle class of America.
“But when I arrived, it didn’t feel [like] that majority, it didn’t feel that powerful, it didn’t feel that strong,” she said.
With her background as a marketer, Romo Edelman noticed a “reverse marketing problem” for Hispanics in the U.S.
She noted that whoever is doing marketing for the Hispanic community is often hiding the best attributes of the community and failing to show the potential that they have.
“And we Hispanics are drinking that Kool-Aid,” she added. “We’re thinking that we’re small when we’re big, and we’re thinking that we’re weak when we’re powerful.”
Since coming to the U.S., Romo Edelman has worked diligently to confront the issues and barriers hindering the Hispanic community, and has contributed to developing some solutions.
Romo Edelman credited three insights guiding the work done at the We Are All Human Foundation.
The first one, she said, is the lack of Hispanics who truly understand their own contributions to the country.
The first annual Hispanic Sentiment Study showed that 77% of respondents were unaware of recent accomplishments achieved by the Hispanic community across the country.
“That means we don’t know how many we are, how big we are, [and] how powerful is our purchasing power,” said Romo Edelman.
The second insight is the observation that the Hispanic community is not unified.
The Hispanic community is made up of 26 countries of origin and in that sense is fragmented.
“That fragmentation makes us feel small, makes us feel [like] part of a little bubble,” she said, expanding on the metaphor as she added that when you are in a bubble, the belief is that if someone else breathes in the air, you’ll lack oxygen.
However, the sooner the Hispanic population realizes there is enough air for everyone, the better.
“Together, we can make a difference,” she added.
The final insight is that 74% of Hispanics have to pretend they’re someone they’re not while in the workplace.
This is often due to the belief in the need for code switching and a lack of confidence in what being Hispanic may mean within the workplace.
These three insights are the focus of all the work that We Are All Human does.
“We’ve never been so ready. We’re never been so strong. We’ve never been so many,” Romo Edelman said of the Hispanic community.
To support this mission, the foundation launched the Hispanic Promise, the first-of-its-kind national pledge to hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics in the workplace.
The Hispanic Promise is a non-legally binding sign of intention that resulted from the joint effort of multiple Hispanic organizations as a call to action for business leaders and companies in corporate America to create a more inclusive work environment for Hispanics.
“We’re going and bringing Hispanics and the agenda to places where they have never been,” said Romo Edelman.
After just seven months, over 70 organizations have signed the pledge.
“This is the first step of many that we have to take,” she said, noting that while there are several corporate pledges for women, African Americans and disabled individuals, a pledge for Hispanics did not previously exist.
“There was no way for corporate America to actually put any single area of effort or visibility or dialogue about Hispanics,” she added.
As a result, We Are All Human and various other Hispanic organizations have called upon media organizations to do just that.
“The role of media is to talk to Hispanics,” noted Romo Edelman. “It’s time for Hispanics to talk to Hispanics about the power of Hispanics.”
Hispanics are often portrayed in stereotypical characters in TV shows and movies — as maids, criminals, immigrants, etc.
“Hispanics, we’re not that,” Romo Edelman said. “We’re hard workers, we’re aspirational, we’re optimists, we’re academic, we’re astronauts, we’re businessowners, we’re entrepreneurs. That’s actually how we should be portrayed.”
Hispanics have a huge place in U.S. society, and, Romo Edelman said, it’s important for Hispanics to see portrayals of themselves in mainstream media that are positive.
Throughout the last decade, 86% of all businesses in the U.S. have been launched by U.S. Latinos.
“That’s why we have to associate ourselves with growth and not only with migration; we need to associate ourselves with contributing to the country and actually changing the middle class of America and energizing who we are,” she noted. “This is our country. Hispanics love America as our own.”
The media has the leverage needed to create the avenue for the Hispanic community to feel empowered and utilize that influence.
“I think that the role of media plays in every sense, from putting pressure onto advertisers to advertise more in our channels, to portray us in a different way, to own media, to support entrepreneurs that are in this space, and to get more diversity of voices,” said Romo Edelman.
As a way to address this, We Are All Human are launching a new series called, ‘High Heroes.’
“We’re putting billboards, we’re doing campaigns, saying, ‘We’re academics, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re businessowners, we’re Hispanics.’ That’s actually what we want to associate ourselves with,” she said.
The influence of the Hispanic community is everywhere. It’s just not often put in view for all of us to see.
For Romo Edelman, the time is now for Hispanics to fully understand, embrace, and exercise their power.
“I have been part of revolutions where [we] have seen change in front of my eyes,” she said. “I am pretty optimistic because the key here [is] that we need to unite. We need to be one. No more divisions. No more focusing on our differences … you have to realize that the price we’re paying for paying attention to our differences is so high.”
The unification of the Hispanic community is an effort that will command all parties to play a role. Romo Edelman will continue to use the platform created with We Are All Human to continue the dialogue around advancing equity, diversity and inclusion of the Hispanic community and all other communities who are underrepresented.
On Monday, Sept. 9, in Dallas, TX, We Are All Human will present the third Hispanic Leadership Summit to convene regional experts and influencers from business, health, media, marketing, technology and civil society, as well as decision makers and Hispanic leaders, to advance the Hispanic agenda as customers, employees and citizens. The last Summit took place in Chicago, IL, on Apr. 26.