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Tackling underrepresentation in tech

  • Posted on January 7, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

This article originally appeared as a blog post on LinkedIn.  

Earlier this week I attended the PNW Latino Tech Summit, organized by ALPFA – the Association of Latino Professionals for America. A series of panels and talks made for an inspiring and insightful day of community-building among local Latinos and Latinas in the tech industry.

I quickly got introduced to some eye-opening metrics: Even though Hispanic people make up about 18% of the US population, most of the largest US-based tech companies only have about 5% of Hispanic representation in their workforce. Not surprising, but still difficult to hear as a Latina in tech: We are highly under-represented; most minorities are. And there’s work to do. So here’s why I think this matters, and how we can continue to change things:

Technology is the one industry shaping all other industries. So representation in tech truly matters.

If you work at a tech consulting firm, or you have in the past, you’ve probably realized that clients come from all industries and business types. Yet they are all turning to us or to companies like us to help them shape their present and their future through technology.

Our industry is shaping the world, and it is our companies’ responsibility to make sure we hire professionals who can innovate for a more inclusive version of the world out there: We need more black voices, Latinx voices, women’s voices, LGBTQ voices, to be represented in the industry that is shaping the world. And beyond ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, we need to bring to the workplace people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, from different cultures, with different education experiences, who speak different languages, who are living under different health and ability circumstances. Diversity needs intersectionality in order to be truly impactful.

Diversity requires intention. Making it obvious is not condescending. It is a powerful statement that can change culture.

During the summit, panelists and presenters were not only Latinx. We had men and women of different ethnicities, career levels, ages, and backgrounds. Some of them did not have college degrees, some of them had attended Ivy League schools. Some of them were executives, some were mid-level software engineers. The LGBTQ community was represented as well. Diversity was visible and intentional.

Intentional diversity is SO important for companies too: It offers perspective, it challenges unconscious bias, it fights ignorance, and it pushes companies and its employees to be better – to do better – as agents of change. And although navigating a diversity and inclusion journey is a huge undertaking for companies, small steps matter.

If society is not ready, work for a company that is.

We have a long way to go to reach equality. Society may not be ready – but you can look for a company that is… Or at least one that is truly dedicating meaningful efforts to enable diversity and equality – especially at the leadership level.

I work for Avanade, a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft, and I mean... have you seen the news from these companies lately? There are three top leadership roles in Avanade, Accenture, and the Accenture-Microsoft Business Group, and they have all been recently occupied by women. Can we agree that we are living in the future? We are ahead (by decades!) in the journey compared to other companies. This seriously makes me so proud, and it also makes me confident about the possibilities of my career as a Mexican woman in tech.

If you manage a diverse group of people, here’s some advice: Treat everybody like individuals.

When asked whether managers should treat male and female employees equally, or somewhat differently because of how different genders experience the world, one of the summit's panelists had a perfect response: “Treat everybody like individuals”. Our responsibility as people managers is to get to know every person that works for us. Make sure you build relationships with each of your employees in a way that works for both of you. There are some tools or assessments that can help with this process of getting to know individuals in your team, and the ones that focus on strengths are usually the most helpful.

Allies are always welcome, and a humble approach makes all the difference.

If you are a man advocating for women, or a white person advocating for people of color, first of all: THANK YOU. People with systemic power and privilege can help other groups accelerate our journey to equality. Here’s a tip: more than looking to have a voice of your own as an ally, seek to be an amplifier for the voices of the group you support. This will make all the difference.  

We see each other. So let’s make each other visible.

The invitation to this summit got to me unexpectedly. Turns out a Latina colleague who is connected with the organizers, and who had interacted with me only once before, put my name out there and made sure I got the invite. Then I did the same with another colleague, and luckily I wasn’t the only one who spread the word. A small but powerful group (between Accenture and Avanade) showed up the day of the event, and I suddenly discovered a community that I am part of and that I wasn't already involved with or active in. This was an important reminder for me: We see each other, we lift each other, and we should work hard and with intention to make each other–and our communities–visible.

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