Today marks the kickoff of what is traditionally known as National Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring the cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Our employees being the originals they are, our LatinX Employee Resource Group (ERG) is declaring it Latinx Heritage Month to be more inclusive and celebrate the heritage of all Latin American countries.
We asked a few LatinX ERG members how they bring their full selves to work and what it means to be a Latinx employee at Levi Strauss & Co.
Bringing unique perspectives to the table
Delia Hermoso, Senior HR Specialist, Benefits – Westlake, Texas: As an employee here in Westlake (Texas), I’m the only one on our Benefits team who speaks Spanish, so I handle all the Spanish speakers. I feel like I am giving back to the Latinx community in this way and I can only hope that someone is able to do the same for those like my Spanish-speaking parents instead of just pushing them to the side. I work with a lot of our retirees who retired years ago from El Paso and distribution centers that are no longer around. When they realize there is someone here who can speak Spanish with them, it feels good for them.
Omar Luna, Merchandising Assistant Global Men’s Tops – San Francisco: It’s cool because there aren’t a lot of us [Latinx employees], so it always feels like we are bringing a new perspective to the table. From a product creation standpoint, it’s cool to leverage some of the stuff I know because of my heritage that other people might not be thinking about – for example, how the brand is perceived outside of the U.S, especially in Mexico where I’m from.
Starting the right conversations
Carmen Socarras, Designer, Signature and Denizen – San Francisco: I’ve had a pretty good experience overall here at [LS&Co.]. Yes, there have been some moments where people have been culturally insensitive. There have been microaggressions, which is why it’s great that we’re now having these hard conversations… I think a lot of people just don’t know they’re being insensitive. But now that leadership has said racial injustice is an important issue, it’s easier for me to say, “Hey, can you understand why that was insensitive?” It’s going to take time to shift the culture, but this is just the beginning. Hopefully we’ll move beyond just conversation to actual deliverables. I think it’s also about hiring and promoting more people of color into leadership positions. I think that will shift the culture.
Omar: I’m happy LS&Co. released our [diversity report]. Initially, I was kind of disappointed to see the numbers because I had heard from Chip [Bergh] two years before, when I was an intern, that our minority representation would improve. While it most likely has, the report shows we still need to do better! But I like that we are holding ourselves accountable to commit to increase our diversity not just for the sake of our numbers but because it will make the company a better one, from a consumer perspective and from an internal one.
Brandon Ferrufino, Store Manager – Minneapolis, Minnesota: I would definitely like to see more diversity and inclusion here. I was glad to contribute to the new changes they’re doing for our [hiring] interview guide. I addressed [with Human Resources] the fact that there were no diversity questions. I think we are in the right position to amplify more diversity here. I think it’s all about baby steps right now… but we should take it day by day and what we’re doing now is appropriate.
Proudly representing culture
Delia: It wasn’t until last year when we celebrated Día De Los Muertos in the Westlake office where I was able to show [my colleagues] what it was all about. It was so awesome to teach them about Día de Los Muertos and everything that it means. A handful of people came over afterward and were like, “I didn’t know there was a thing like this.” And LS&Co. was so supportive of it – being able to teach others about our culture is pretty cool.
Brandon: As a store manager, being a male Latinx in the Minnesota market is great and unique. At my old store in the Twin Cities, I brought a lot of my culture because I spoke Spanish. Now I’m seeing more Latinx consumers come in because they are more comfortable with my presence here at the Albertville Outlet and I am now also encouraging my team to learn Spanish as well!
Omar: I feel proud of my heritage. And if someone speaks Spanish here at work, I might speak Spanish with them. I think language is a huge bond, so I’ll message people in Spanish if I know they speak it. Outside of that language bond, I feel more comfortable reaching out to colleagues who are Latinx because our experiences resonate with each other. I’m excited and I look forward to our representation increasing.
Read more from our LatinX ERG members at levi.com.
*Main image courtesy of Brandon Ferrufino