In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), Cox is casting a spotlight on some of the employees who make up our rich and diverse company culture.
The Latinx community is made up of people from many ethnic groups with diverse histories, languages, countries of origin, and cultures. In this Q&A, Hugo Carmona, senior government affairs manager for Cox Automotive in Irvine, California, shares the need to break down stereotypes and push for greater inclusivity in our communities and workplaces.
How has your culture and upbringing influenced how you have lived your life? How has it also influenced how you show up every day for work?
I feel responsible to represent my culture in a way that breaks down stereotypes and moves us all towards greater inclusivity. Every day, I try to connect with people that may not look like me or share my interests. I think it is easy to gravitate towards what makes us feel comfortable. Some do it out of necessity, others do it out of habit. I try to escape that “comfort zone” as much as possible, especially as I advance in my career. Some of my most meaningful interactions have come from nurturing this mentality, and it helps to push me beyond my normal boundaries. By sharing and learning from different experiences, we become more well-rounded individuals.
How does your Hispanic / Latino heritage play into your traditions, beliefs and lifestyle? How do you keep those traditions alive?
Many cultures share the “family-oriented” tradition that Latinos have come to be known for. So, while it is in no way unique to me, my family’s wellbeing still drives my decision-making and values. I try to remember the sacrifices that were made for me, and I try not to take for granted the opportunities that I have in front of me. My mother grew up in a country where private schooling was her only option – and her grandfather refused to pay for it. She always marveled at how K-12 education is accessible to all in this country and openly wished that she grew up under different circumstances.
You must be comfortable in your own skin and understand that our differences are valuable assets. It is a balance between assimilating into a team while also bringing your unique personality, skillset, background, and experiences to the table. That mentality can be applied to both work and home life.
What do you think is important for others at the company to know about your experience being Latino in corporate America and at Cox?
As a second-generation Latino, I identify the United States as my home. Corporate America still tends to see the Latino community as a homogenous group rather than a diaspora of different traditions, holidays, and celebrations. A more nuanced understanding of the subgroups of Latinos within Cox would help leadership understand us on a deeper level. While we may not all celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we do appreciate the effort to connect and understand us.
For as much progress as we have made in corporate America (and society overall), we are still inherently biased towards those that look like us and share our backgrounds. That bias leads us to find natural comfort in groups of people of the same background. In meetings, we are still often times the only person of Latino heritage. Progress must be made on both sides – allies must continue working to provide an inclusive environment, and Latinos must work to break down barriers.
What do you think is the greatest need to move the Latinx community forward – and how can others help?
Latinos face many of the systemic barriers that other communities face – historic redlining, a lack of generational wealth, smaller professional networks, and generally worse school districts. Investing in community-based organizations, youth outreach programs, and anything else to close the opportunity gap will pay dividends in the future.