I’m a Latinx entrepreneur. I’m a first first-generation American. I grew up in Queens, New York, and I’m proud of each of these parts of me. They’ve shaped who I am as a person, a leader, and a founder of five companies over 20 years.
But growing up — and throughout the earlier stages of my career — I didn’t see people that looked like me leading companies. Sure, the landscape has changed some since then, but we still have a long way to go. The next generation needs to believe their dreams are possible and it’s up to us to show them that it is.
Drift — a company I co-founded with fellow Latino Elias Torres — recently reached unicorn status. We’re part of the fewer than 1 percent of all technology startups with Latinx founders to surpass a $1 billion valuation. If you would have told that kid growing up in Queens that he’d be part of something that’s worth $1 billion dollars, he might have laughed in your face.
It’s an achievement I’m immensely proud of, but it’s a dream I wouldn’t have even known to consider as a kid, and an achievement that happens far too rarely in our industry. Today, Latinx leaders make up less than ten percent of the leadership at big tech companies, and only 17 CEO’s in the S&P 500 identify as Latinx. Again, that’s simply not enough.
It’s on us as leaders to extend our commitment beyond diversifying boardrooms and C-suites and to apply diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout our companies. At Drift, championing diversity and inclusion are core pieces of our recruiting and philanthropy strategy. We know it’s the right thing to do, and we also know that it makes us better as a company.
And fortunately, others are starting to think the same way.
Diversity is so much more than another box to check, it’s a necessary and important driver of success. Unique viewpoints, backgrounds, and cultures help us all challenge each other to see things differently and reach stronger outcomes. But still, many underrepresented communities struggle to overcome the obstacles of the unknown.
They’re not pursuing careers in software, tech, or artificial intelligence, because they aren’t seeing people like them in these roles. Or, they simply don’t know that these careers even exist. We need to build pipelines into these communities and serve as visible role models and mentors to show underrepresented minorities what is possible beyond where they are today.
For example, my workplace supports STEM initiatives like Hack.Diversity, BUILD, Building Impact, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Wallbreakers and more. I speak at events like the Men of Leadership conference and Boston’s City Awake mentor series. And beyond that, I make myself available to give advice or just talk to underrepresented minorities whenever I can.
And I challenge you to think about how you can do the same.
That’s why this Hispanic Heritage Month I want founders, CEOs and all leaders across corporate America to consider the significance of providing the Latinx community and underrepresented minorities more access to our industry.
It’ll open up more doors for more people. It should inform how we hire, how we promote, and how we mentor. And hopefully, it will lead to an American workplace that more closely represents the changing demographics in our country.