Male-dominated, underrepresentation and privilege are just some words to describe the tech industry. Less than 20 percent of women make up the tech space, and that number drops even lower when it comes to women of color. But these stats haven’t discouraged Latinas from leaving their mark in the tech world.
Here, 7 Latinas killing it in the tech industry.
1. Gretel Perera
(Courtesy of Gretel Perera)
For Venezuelan-born Gretel Perera, the most exciting part of technology is storytelling.
The PR professional has been specializing in tech companies for the past decade, working for brands like HomeAway, Evernote and Dell. In 2014, she and friend Rocio Medina felt there wasn’t a community for Latinas in the industry and together founded Latinas in Tech, a nonprofit organization with the mission to connect, support and empower Latina women working in the field.
Their org, which Perera calls a “full-time passion,” started out as a couple Latinas in the tech space meeting up at bars to discuss the challenges they faced at work. Fast-forward to today, they host meetups inside tech companies like Google and Lyft.
“Our community has more than 2 thousand women working in tech, from more than 15 countries. In all the major companies, we have a presence. Women who are entrepreneurs, investors, marketing professionals, engineers, cybersecurity experts, etc,’” Perera told FIERCE.
There are challenges Latinas face when culturally adapting to an environment as dynamic as Silicon Valley. To start: It’s fast-paced and male-dominated, but Latinas in Tech offers meetups and various panels in the U.S. and Mexico that educate women on how to use their culture as a strategic tool for their careers.
“You have a different perspective you can bring to a company,” she said. “We want Latinas to learn how to package it and market themselves differently compared to someone who doesn’t have it.”
2. Janel Martinez
(Courtesy of Janel Martinez)
Janel Martinez was born in New York to Honduran parents. Growing up, she was obsessed with all things media. From watching the news after school to catching up on popular shows, she was very aware from an early age of what representation looked like in mainstream media and that she never saw a complete view of her identity in it.
She started her own career in media at a business publication. While interviewing entrepreneurs, she realized they all said something similar: “I created this because I saw there was no solution for it.” She carried these words with her until 2013, when she launched Ain’t I Latina, a digital destination that celebrates and highlights Afro-Latinas.
Her advice for young Latinas looking to get into the tech space? Go for it! With Latinas only making up a small percentage of the tech industry, Martinez understands why discouraged women of color might ask, “Why would I go for it if my chances are lower than my white counterparts?” But she doesn’t want them to be brought down by the numbers.
“There’s going to be times you’re the only Latina in the room, but don’t let that hold you back because you definitely are deserving and worthy to be in that space if you want it,” she told us.
3. Nathalie Molina Niño
(Courtesy of Nathalie Molina Niño)
Nathalie Molina Niño started her first startup when she was 20. Now, nearly two decades later, she is the CEO and founder of BRAVA Investments, which targets high-growth, scalable businesses that deliver a measurable economic benefit to women.
That’s not all. Molina Niño also founded the Center for Women Entrepreneurs at Barnard College of Columbia University, where she teaches; works on a TV show about women of color in STEM, whose pilot has been picked up by Freeform; and has a book, LEAPFROG: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs, that is set to hit bookshelves in August. The book was inspired by the myth, often perpetuated in other startup literature, that people who want to open businesses have wealthy friends and family that can write them checks.
Born to a Colombian mother and an Ecuadorian father, Molina Niño says what she admires most about the Latino community is the spirit we have to be the most entrepreneurial people in this country.
4. Natalia Carrasco
(Courtesy of Natalia Carrasco)
In San Francisco, Bolivian-born Natalia Carrasco is the director of strategy for The Town Kitchen, a community-driven food company that employs and empowers low-income youth by delivering chef-crafted, boxed lunches to corporate clients.
Carrasco has always been fascinated with using business and tech for good. “Technology can be super powerful, and when you apply that power into social good, you can make a very important impact,” Carrasco told us.
No day is ever the same for her at The Town Kitchen, but she is always looking to implement technology tools into her workplace in order to create a more efficient office. She’s currently working on a personal project that will gather local vendors with a social impact. Through it, she hopes to provide a directory for companies and individuals looking to purchase goods and services from a brand that has a positive impact in their community, whether it be vendors that hire formerly incarcerated youth or businesses run by people of color.
5. Elena Buenrostro
(Courtesy of Elena Buenrostro)
From New York to Australia, California-born Elena Buenrostro is building an international community for women who fly drones. This Mexican-American certified drone pilot never imagined she’d be doing this work. With a background in video production, last year, after deciding she would hike the Great Wall of China, she knew she wanted to make a video of it with a fresh perspective. To do so, she bought a drone.
Buenrostro became obsessed with flying her drone and soon realized that there wasn’t a community for women who were drone pilots, so she co-founded Women Who Drone, a digital space for female drone pilots, enthusiasts and aerial content creators.
Together, they strive to educate and inspire women to join the UAV industry by providing everything from workshops to brand ambassador positions in all parts of the world.
With more than 17 thousand followers on Instagram, the Women Who Drone community continues to expand, bringing in women from all walks of life.
She now teaches people how to fly, and says the most rewarding part is when they tell her they bought a drone because of her.
“It’s a booming industry. It’s going to be worth 127 billion by 2020, and only 4 percent of women are involved in that. Drones are going to be a large part of the future,” she says.
6. Ariel Lopez
(Courtesy of Ariel Lopez)
Born in Florida and raised in North Carolina, Puerto Rican entrepreneur, career coach and public speaker Ariel Lopez is helping to train individuals on the skills they need to find careers in tech and media spaces.
She’s the founder and CEO of 2020Shift, a startup that helps tech and digital media companies diversify their recruitment process and provides leadership and skills-based training.
Lopez came up with 2020Shift in 2014, after seeing the disparity in tech among woman and people of color. Her background is in recruiting and talent acquisition, and by helping many startups hire talent, she was able to get an inside look at what companies want when hiring for tech positions.
“I started it really in the effort to prepare people for these roles and raise awareness on all the different things that you can do in tech regardless of your skillset or your background,” she says. “The misconception is: learn how to code, become an engineer and that’s your golden ticket in. When you can literally do hundreds, if not thousands, of other things within the space.”
What’s next for 2020Shift and Lopez? Knac, a platform that will be launching this summer that will actually let people showcase their skills to employers through small assessments and hiring challenges. Some of the employers participating include Snapchat, Vimeo, MasterCard and more.
7. Soledad Antelada Toledano
(Courtesy of Soledad Antelada Toledano)
Argentine-born Soledad Antelada Toledano works in cybersecurity operations at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in San Francisco. It’s not an industry that has many women, so in 2014, she started Girls Can Hack, an organization determined to close the gender gap in tech.
Through her org, she offers guidance and empowerment to women looking to enter the cybersecurity world.
“Only 10 percent of people in cybersecurity are women, and the numbers are not going up. It is an extremely hostile field for women,” she says. “Cybersecurity nowadays is the base of the change and advancement in tech. It is changing the world politically and economically, and women are missing out.”
Antelada is also the president of The Women Scientists and Engineers Council at her lab, and she is continuing to work hard to bring diversity and inclusion to the cybersecurity space.
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