As of 2016, Latinos make up 16.8 percent – 26.8 million – of the workforce in the United States. While there are plenty of statistics about the industries (tech, legal, STEM, and many more) where our communities are sorely underrepresented and how the wage gap disproportionately affects Latinas (and other women of color), we wanted to learn more about what it’s like to pursue your career goals as a Latino today.
That’s why we’re launching Latinx Career Diaries. A few times a month, we’ll offer you a peek into what it’s like to work a certain job as a Latino. The goal is to give you an idea of what people with your similar experiences earn, help you pick up some negotiation tactics, and provide guidance if you’re embarking on your career.
These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Preferred Pronouns: She/Her
Job Title: Executive director at a client-focused nonprofit does organizing around climate change.
Years at Current Job: 2.75 years
Location: Los Angeles, California
Years of Experience: 8 years
Salary: $67,000. I should be paid about $15,000 more, because I have a Master’s degree (an MPA) from NYU.
Negotiation Process: The Board of Directors was not willing to give me the salary that I believe that I deserve because of a severe cash crunch the organization was under. When I entered the position and started to understand the true status of the organization in more detail, I realized that I would have to work extremely hard to get the funding we needed to keep the organization afloat and hire the staff I needed. Therefore, a raise stayed far in the back of my head. Through this process, I learned to be much more critical of the circumstances I was putting myself in.
Benefits: Full benefits, including dental, vision, and a retirement plan.
Cost of living in your city based on your salary: I can afford the cost of living in my city.
How I Broke In: I learned about climate change in college and saw that it’s the biggest world-wide challenge we face, so I wanted to do something about it. Toward the end of my senior year of college I applied for a very entry-level position (apprentice) at one of the most well-known environmental organizations in the country and was asked to work in Texas for six months. I was a community organizer primarily working in rural, east Texas and fell in love with the work so I stayed for three years to support a community that was fighting off a proposed coal plant. An important thing to note is that I had no idea that I had the skills to be a community organizer. I was lucky to be hired by people who saw I had what it took to do the job even when I didn’t know it.
Why I’m here today: For starters, I volunteered at a Latina mentoring program when I was in college. This gave me the experience I needed to get my entry-level job at my first organization. Then, I earned a masters degree which made me competitive for the position. Lastly, my network really helped in getting my foot in the door.
Responsibilities: Fundraising, managing staff, strategic guidance for all of our work, public speaking and representing the organization to the public/media.
What I like Most/Least: I love working with young people. Our main constituency are people between the ages of 14 and 30. Most of them are in their late teens and early 20s and bring so much enthusiasm and energy to the work which keeps me motivated. I also strongly believe in the issue that we organize around: climate change. It’s a huge challenge and yet very rewarding.
Diversity: In my field, in general, there is very little representation of the Latinx community. Environmentalism is unfortunately still often seen as a “white issue,” even though people of color are disproportionately affected by poor air quality, extreme weather, etc. I am very often the only Latinx in the room. This is true for national-level spaces – that is, when I’m meeting with directors from other national nonprofits. However, I have done a very concerted effort to hire people of color at my organization.
Growth Potential: I do feel there is potential for growth.
What I wish I Knew Before: I wish I knew how to build relationships with strangers. In other words, I wish I was more comfortable networking. I also wish I knew what questions to ask of the people who were hiring me so that I made sure I was entering a job that was set up for success.