By Moises Mendoza
The Department of State has been challenged to ensure that its workforce accurately reflects the U.S. population. Despite the fact that 18.5 percent of people in the United States claim Hispanic heritage, Latinos constitute just under eight percent of the Department’s workforce.
Esperanza—or “hope” in Spanish—was the theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Throughout the month, the Hispanic Employee Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA) employee affinity group launched a range of programming to highlight the role of the Hispanic community in diplomacy and expressed its hope and determination that more Hispanics will become diplomats. The month culminated with a first-of-its-kind symposium specifically targeted at Hispanic students considering a career in foreign affairs.
HECFAA worked with colleagues in Global Public Affairs (GPA) to develop other exciting initiatives, which included articles on the Department’s intranet and public-facing DipNote blog, a series of internal discussions with embassies and bureaus celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and a small-group cafecito—coffee in Spanish—discussion with former Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Hugo Rodriguez. A formal town hall with the Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided a fitting addition to the month’s events, showcasing leadership’s interest in diversity issues.
“It was an enormously successful month that shows the importance of our community within the Department and the many ways that we contribute to making our workplace richer and more diverse,” said HECFAA president Isabel Romero, who works as a security program officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The capstone was the inaugural virtual symposium—a partnership with GPA—that included numerous high-level officials and targeted 400 participating students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, universities, and community colleges. After its great success, Romero hopes to work with the Department to make the symposium an annual tradition.
“We have hope for a more diverse workforce,” Romero told the students during the symposium. “That hope starts with you, and I hope you’ll consider joining us.”
Moises Mendoza is a Foreign Service officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Office of Central American Affairs.