Shifting the Paradigm: Latinos in Tech Building a Movement to Get Beyond the 3%

Shifting the Paradigm: Latinos in Tech Building a Movement to Get Beyond the 3%
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by Isidra Mencos and Jacqueline Martínez Garcel

Latinos make up 33% of Silicon Valley's population, yet only represent 3% of the work force in the tech companies that are located in this region of the State. The percentage in high tech leadership positions is even smaller.

It is also well known that Latino consumers are often the earliest and most frequent adopters of new technology and can be characterized as ‘technology super users’. This is a population that has a buying power of over $1.3 trillion.

So why haven’t tech companies hacked this problem to get beyond the 3%? Why haven’t Latinos been given the opportunities to lend their creativity and experience in this growing sector? Why are investments received by Latino tech start-ups less than 1% of all venture capital investments?

While some continue to ponder on the ‘why,’ a group of young Latinos in California have taken it upon themselves to change this reality.

The Latinos in Tech Giving Circle (LiT), a philanthropic group that is part of the wider Latinos Giving Circle Network launched by the Latino Community Foundation (LCF), is comprised of 40 young and passionate change agents. As one of their founding members, Hector Mujica, asserts, “Latinos are a force. We should not only be consumers of technology. We should be producers of technology.”

LiT began this movement as an acknowledgement that they have access to resources and people that can open doors. Another founding member, Alberto Melgoza, put it this way “Latinos may come in through the back door, but they are committed to opening the front door for others to have access to opportunities."

LiT has honed in on three priority areas: Latino entrepreneurship, STEM education and civic engagement. The group is using their personal resources, talents, and networks to accelerate change in the tech sector.

April Alvarez, a member of LiT, lives and breathes this priority as Strategic Partnerships Manager at Google. She is part of the team running Code Next, a Google program that offers free coding and computer science classes to 140 eighth-graders in Oakland and New York, all Black or Latino youth living in low-income communities. Her commitment to increasing diversity in tech found a perfect outlet in LiT.

The group's vision goes far beyond investing money. It includes breeding a generation of committed Latino leaders and philanthropists that are civically engaged to improve the life of our community.

"The core essence of what we do at LiT will always be to provide funding for Latino groups that are marginalized from traditional philanthropic dollars," states Hector. "But there is more we can do. We are serving as mentors, non-profit board members, and advocates—going back to our own spheres of influence and championing the issues that need to change to create more opportunities and access for Latinos," he adds.

Jacob Martinez, the founder and Executive Director of Digital Nest, a grantee of the Giving Circle summarizes the solution best: “We can’t become what we are unable to see.” When Latinos are given access to the same opportunities as others and exposed to the potential of a career in tech, they will thrive as leaders in this field.

There is one underlying theme driving this work for LiT, the organizations they fund, and the Latino Community Foundation: we cannot afford to wait another five years to deal with the lack of representation of Latinos in the tech sector. Their contribution, voice, creativity, and expertise is missing and it is not ok! The problem is one that can and should be fixed. These groups know firsthand that if Latinos are given access to opportunities, we can get beyond the 3%. The Latinos in Tech Giving Circle is doing just that, opening doors of opportunity for the next generation.

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