Latinas Are Influencing Tomorrow’s Technology EcosystemBy Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Tue, 08/02/2022 - 12:12
Q: What is the guiding purpose of Latinas in Tech and what are the unique benefits of membership?
A: Latinas in Tech was founded in 2014 as a grassroots organization at a time when female representation in the technology ecosystem of Silicon Valley was marginal. Preceding its formal establishment, our founding members had originally convened to exchange ideas and discuss strategy formation at a time when companies in San Francisco were interested in expanding to Latin America, namely Mexico and Brazil. It was during these periodic meetings that we noticed that there were not that many Latinas working in technology.
This realization precipitated our mission to be generators of opportunities and a space where Latina women could celebrate their successes. This attitude, combined with our relative seniority, helped the organization grow rapidly and expand the resources and opportunities Latinas need to thrive, innovate and lead in the technology industry. Since then, we have further expanded our ambitions to create a technology industry where Latinas are well represented throughout all levels of the technology ecosystem by empowering them to be innovators and leaders.
After eight years of development, our three core values are: to increase the representation of Latinas in decision-making positions, foment the confidence and capabilities of our members and increase the participation of Latina-founded startups with venture capital funding. To meet these objectives, we have formed multiple mentorship and education programs and hosted startup competitions and an annual summit.
Q: What plans does Latinas in Tech have to fortify and expand its presence in Mexico?
A: About 95 percent of our members are based in the US but we are working to fortify our presence across the six countries in which we are present. Mexico, our second-largest chapter, was founded four years ago and remains one of our central priorities for the immediate future. Mexico has a completely different sociopolitical and cultural context from our other chapters, shifting our primary concern from leadership in tech to expanding participation in the tech industry. Respectively, our initiatives and programs are directed at encouraging and supporting the participation of women in STEM so they can enter the country’s technology ecosystem.
Our offices in Mexico just named their new board leadership, which is getting new projects off the ground and potentially signing new sponsorships.
Q: What is the added-value generated by partner companies across chapters?
A: Latinas in Tech is a robust organization. We are sponsored by or allied with over 60 different companies, including Google, Meta, and LinkedIn. These companies play an active role in the development and advancement of Latina talent in different and often overlapping capacities. On the one hand, they enable Latinas in Tech to provide the necessary tools, programs and support needed to strengthen and generate talent. In exchange, we are a valuable organization for companies because they can scout and recruit from a pool of highly qualified talent, often with relatively senior positions when compared to other organizations.
Q: How will Latinas in Tech influence the generation of female talent and leadership in the global technology ecosystem?
A: About 70 percent of Latinas in Tech’s work focuses on providing Latinas the skills and know-how needed to navigate the corporate hierarchy so they can advance their careers. This initiative is based on the observable discrepancy between our demographic representation in California and the minute representation of women working in technology. The numbers just do not make sense and the disparity becomes increasingly pronounced moving up the business ladder. This deviation requires systematic change among technology companies so that Latinas, who are often overqualified for their current positions, can move past the lower ring of corporate structures where they are currently concentrated.
Meanwhile, 20 percent of our work focuses on auditing the types of programs companies have to improve them and fortifying or creating affinity groups, which have proven to be helpful in supporting Latinas. These groups are often the greatest allies and resources Latinas have within their company. We help these support systems mature so that they can foment the likelihood of female leaders within the organization.
The remaining 10 percent of our work focuses on lobbying lawmakers to try and change what we cannot address ourselves.
Q: How has the digital transformation and the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the generation of female tech talent over the past two and a half years?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic and the digital transformation went hand in hand, with the former potentially accelerating the latter. When the pandemic started, we had just been approved by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax-exempt organization and were signing several sponsorship contracts with many tech companies. However, the pandemic led companies to step back out of an abundance of precaution. Later, the murder of George Floyd would propel the Black Lives Matter movement, leading companies to realize that they needed to invest in Black and brown communities. After that, funds that had been frozen came back multiplied.
Simultaneously, Latinas were laid off at a higher rate than other groups because companies had consciously hired them as contingent workers. Jobless, and some with kids at home, our members needed us more than ever. Thankfully, using collected funds, we were able to support them during this period and help them find better employment opportunities because of the digital transformation.
Q: What are the central priorities and objectives for Latinas in Tech for 2022-23?
A: We are investing in infrastructure because we grew rapidly, so we need to get ahead of our game. We have 20,000 members, robust traffic and content creation. We are also adding three new programs: one for professional development, mentorship and entrepreneurship. Our summit also gets larger every year, so planning and preparation will is on the horizon.
Latinas in Tech, 20,000-strong across 6 countries, is a nonprofit organization with the mission to connect, support and empower Latina women working in technology.