Prior to the pandemic, Latinas in the U.S. were paid 45% less than their white male counterparts, a number that has remained stagnant the last three decades. Since the pandemic, Hispanic women have faced a steeper decline in employment (‑21%) than other groups of women and men, according to a study by Pew Research.
These stats point to a troubling reality—the U.S. workforce is not set up for Latinas to thrive, and this is even more problematic when we look at the tech industry. A 2020 study found while women comprise 28.8% of the U.S. tech workforce, Latinas hold a mere 2% of jobs in STEM.
To raise awareness for the opportunities that exist, The Female Quotient hosted Latinas in Tech to hear solutions from professionals passionate about closing the gap. It’s time we flip the script on the homogeneous and often difficult-to-navigate landscape of the tech industry. Here’s how:
Increase awareness about the opportunities in tech
“People look at tech companies, and say ‘I don’t code.’ But there is a whole plethora of opportunities that don’t require a tech background,” said Andréa Schiller, Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce. “Sharing that narrative is essential to getting more Latinas into the industry.”
With more than 500,000 tech businesses in the U.S.,the corresponding job positions are vast and varied, including roles in social media, marketing, content strategy, SEO and web analytics, as well as programming and engineering. Tech is not just about coding — it includes everything that makes a business run. It is projected that over 240,000 tech positions will be added to the job market by the end of 2021. There are a number of sites dedicated to helping women find these positions such as Dice and Hire Tech Ladies.
In order to change the narrative, we must continue to pass the mic and share stories of female trailblazers in tech, such as Erica Beal, the Latina founder and CEO of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm serving the energy and utility industry. If you can see her, you can be her.
Early exposure is key
How do women discover jobs? How do they even know the types of jobs that are available?
“We need to go into Latina communities earlier and have this conversation, giving them the tools they need, and making it available to them as a career path,” shared Jessica Ricaurte, Account Director at Verizon Media.
Making a long-term commitment to the Latina community starts with sharing opportunities in the tech industry with students, and reaching out to those who are looking to make a change and reskill. This may include career days, field trips and educational tech seminars at local community centers. Reach high school students before they are even thinking about college, because they may be considering a school that doesn’t specialize in these types of programs, or perhaps an internship is a better fit before they choose a career field.
For adults who are looking to make a career transition or start anew, it’s an opportune time to upskill via online courses, certification programs and apprenticeships with built-in job opportunities. Professional networks such as Latinas in Tech and TechLatino provide resources to connect with other Latino professionals and businesses, building a network through workshops and seminars.
Take ownership of diversity initiatives
It is important to not only hire for diverse talent but to place focus on their career growth and retention. According to Women in Tech, women in STEM careers are more likely to leave within the first few years due to an unsupportive work culture. A lack of diverse role models and representation in the workplace also leads to higher turnover. An HBR study found that 77% of Latinos feel the need to repress parts of their identity and feel like they can’t be themselves.
“The onus has to change. This is not just a chief diversity officer’s role or the role of HR,” said Heather Conneely, the U.S. Business Lead at Facebook. “To be able to grow and retain diverse candidates—it’s everyone’s role.”
Hiring managers should always request a diverse pool of candidates from HR during the interview process. Once onboarded, companies must create a culture of inclusion that encourages Latinas to stay and become vested in their company.
This may entail having a mentor in the workplace, as well as a mentee, to provide a support infrastructure and camaraderie. Safe spaces such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) where conversations about inclusion, representation and other issues are discussed have also proved effective in employee retention. Schiller shared that Salesforce has a number of such internal groups amongst its diverse employees including Latinoforce, Abilityforce, Southasiaforce and the Women’s Network.
Acknowledge workplace biases and create solutions
The tech industry, well known for its “brogrammer culture,” is often described as intimidating and unwelcoming for women. It can correlate to women receiving less pay for the same work, receiving remedial or low-level assignments and being criticized for behavior that is justifiable for their male counterparts.
At Facebook where Conneely works, every employee is encouraged to participate in unconscious bias training. “The first step is acknowledging we all have bias and then working through them,” she explained. “As a manager, being able to promote, support and develop team members is part of our core.”
Another solution is what I call “proximity-ship,” where an organization focuses on in-reach versus outreach. This is when leaders designate time slots on their calendars for team members, regardless of title or position, to sign up for valuable one-on-one time they may not have access to otherwise.
Ricaurte summed it up well: “Being in tech means working in an environment of disruption and innovation. For the Latinas in tech, we are the definition of that. Stick with it. We need you. Sometimes, it is a lonely road, but lean into your peers and mentors. They are the solution.”
Shelley Zalis, known as the “chief troublemaker,” is a pioneer for online research, movement leader, and champion of gender equality. She is an internationally renowned
Shelley Zalis, known as the “chief troublemaker,” is a pioneer for online research, movement leader, and champion of gender equality. She is an internationally renowned entrepreneur, speaker, mentor, mother, and founder and CEO of The Female Quotient. Zalis rewrites the rules and innovates solutions to impact real change. In 2000, she left the corporate world to found OTX (Online Testing Exchange), which became one of the fastest growing research companies in the world. She sold OTX to Ipsos in 2010, and then led global innovation in more than 80 countries at Ipsos OTX. Today, as CEO of The Female Quotient, Zalis works with Fortune 500 companies to advance gender equality across industries. The FQ’s signature pop-up experience, the FQ Lounge (formerly the Girls’ Lounge), brings a Home of Equality to major conferences, companies, and college campuses around the world. The FQ Lounge is the gathering place for leaders of all levels at events such as the World Economic Forum, Cannes Lions, Consumer Electronics Show and the Milken Institute Global Conference. Through the destination-turned-movement, Zalis has connected more than 18,000 women in business and created the largest female-led community to transform workplace culture.