By April Alvarez.
Educational Equity Programs Manager, Diversity & Inclusion Google.
I have always maintained a deep commitment to giving back to my community, and in recent years, I have had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at numerous community events. I especially enjoy speaking at events in the area where I grew up, California’s Central Valley. The Central Valley is a beautiful community heavily influenced by the Mexican traditions of the many immigrant families that settled there, but it is also one that is very under-resourced. In my hometown only about half of Latinx students finish high school. This makes it even more important for me to take any opportunity to reach out to the youth sitting in the same seats I did years ago.
One of the most memorable events for me was a leadership conference for young women in my hometown. The focus of my workshop was diversity in the tech industry, and as part of my talk I asked the classroom full of young women, mostly Latinas, to close their eyes and envision who works in the tech industry. I prompted them to think about what the person looked like, what that person might be wearing, what would they be interested in, and did they know anyone like this? The person they all described couldn’t be any further away from who was sitting in front of me – across the board they saw the stereotypical version of an engineer. It’s challenging this perception of who belongs in computer science, and the tech industry, that fuels my work. I am passionate about opening doors to places like the one I work, because I see what participating in this culture of innovation could do for any one of those girls in those seats. The tech industry is reimagining the way we live our lives, it’s challenging society to redefine everyday interactions, and we cannot underestimate the opportunities to begin to build generational wealth when working at a place like Google. The typical tech worker at a Silicon Valley tech company earns well over 100k, with a market that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
I feel fortunate to have landed at a company and on a team that is committed to creating opportunities for more Black and Latinx students to pursue computer science. In recent years, many tech companies have released diversity reports, sharing company-wide representation numbers.
Some of the initiatives I have developed were highlighted in Google’s latest Diversity Annual Report and for that I am very proud. This is a great first step, but we have a long way to go as an industry, when it comes to Latinas participating in the tech industry, we are sorely underrepresented.
As Latinas, we need to open the doors for others as we gain access to these spaces, if you get a seat at the table, you better pull up a seat next to you. Tech companies need to do the hard work and invest in Black and Latinx communities, make a commitment to hiring and investing in the talent of tomorrow, and focus on improving outcomes in workforce representation. As a nation, it’s imperative we work to remove the barriers to access quality STEM education so many young Latinas face in their educational careers. I hope one day I am less the exception at a company like Google and more the norm, after all as they say, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.
April Alvarez is the Educational Equity Programs Manager for the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team at Google. In this role, she manages key initiatives such as Code Next and Tech Exchange, Google’s programs to support and prepare more Black and Latinx students for a career in the tech industry. Her personal mission is to bridge the tech opportunity gap for Black and Latinx communities in major cities across the U.S.
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