This week I stepped down from my role as Research & Design Director at Year Up. My time with the team went much faster than I imagined. But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years its that when the universe knocks on your door with an amazing opportunity, you should open it. Even if it means saying goodbye to another amazing experience (more on this later).
As I reflect on my time with the Year Up team, what is going to stay with me the most, is the importance of why representation matters in the workplace.
When we begin any conversation about representation it is inherently linked to the concept of identify. I wear many identities within life: Partner, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Cat Mom, Adoptee, Colombian, Female, Researcher, Teacher, the list could go on and on. These elements of my identity come to influence how I exist and interact within the world. Unfortunately, these lenses can also show where I may encounter or receive bias in my life.
One of the unique benefits of having served on the Year Up team is seeing diversity integrated at every level of the organization. It is seen not only in the students that we work with but within the internal staff as well. From site staff, national, all the way up to the executive team; staff members come from all walks of life. Each with varying backgrounds, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. There is true beauty in seeing so many diverse individuals aligned and marching towards one common mission. It wasn’t until I landed with the team that I became aware of how much this was needed in my life.
I’ve spent the last 8 years of my career working in technology. For a majority of that time, I’ve been the only person of color in the room. Imagine that! One of the only people of color making product and design decisions that impact millions of diverse individuals. This is huge! Since our identities intrinsically impact how we experience the world, if our product and design teams are skewed towards one particular perspective it impacts how we identify and solve problems. Creativity is truly enhanced when you have empathy with your audience and incorporate diverse perspectives to co-create solutions.
Until 2020, I had only ever met and interacted with 1 BIPOC female at the executive level (Shoutout to Maribel). To put things into perspective, my experiences are not unique. It is estimated that only 2% of employees in todays tech companies are BIPOC. And the number of BIPOC females in tech are even lower.
That is precisely why my time at Year Up was so special. For context at Year Up, 53% of the executive team is BIPOC and a staggering 26% is female BIPOC. This experience showed me that as society we can do better. There are no longer any excuses as to why women of color cant rise to the levels of executive leadership. Let Madam VP be a true testament to that! But its also important to remember that its difficult to dream and see yourself in a specific role, if you’ve never seen examples of it before.
My expectations for leadership, representation, and diversity are forever changed because of my experience with the Year Up team. I plan on carrying this forward with me as I move into my next role and beyond. Year Up will forever have a place in my heart and I look forward to partnering and being of service for years to come.