Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month — meet GemJuntos!
September 16, 2022
Diversity is one of Gem’s core values, and has been since day one. We know the best way to build great products that deliver on our mission is to hire and empower diverse teams. Supporting diversity is an important thing to do, but it's also business imperative if you want to thrive as a company. It makes businesses better. Over the years, we have continually sought out ways to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable environment where all Gems can show up as their authentic selves and do the best work of their careers.
With Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th- October 15th) underway, we wanted to showcase one of our newest employee resource groups (ERG) — GemJuntos! GemJuntos was founded with the aim “to create an environment of belonging, inclusion and community both for LatinX Gems, as well as the broader Gem and tech community, while also celebrating the many diverse perspectives, experiences and voices within the Latinx community.”
We spoke with two members of this ERG, Jess Cerami (Director of Marketing Events) and Raymon Vinicio López Azcona (Technical Sourcer, Product Management and Design) to learn more:
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Jess: Growing up as the daughter of two parents who directly participated in the Chicano Civil Rights movement in Los Angeles in the 1960s, I was fortunate enough to learn so much rich history from my parents that was notably absent from the textbooks provided throughout my schooling. This foundation helped me appreciate just how critical making space for, and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is to ensure those who may not have been exposed to the many contributions LatinX people have made to United States history are acknowledged and celebrated more widely.
Raymon: For me, months like Hispanic Heritage Month are a reminder to reflect on and celebrate the language, dance, music, food; the stories, the histories, the tales of struggle and triumph through the past into the present — all the things that make up the Latinidad in me, my family, my community, this country, and this world. It’s about carving out places, spaces, and times to do what I should be doing all year long: talking to fellow Latinx people about what binds us and differentiates us, seeking out art, music, theater, movies, dances and books by Latinx artists and writers. So much of my experience in life has been affected by my Latinx identity, and Hispanic Heritage Month is a chance to really honor that.
What do you wish people knew about the Latinx community that you think is broadly misunderstood or not known?
Jess: According to research released by McKinsey & Company, the Latinx community currently represents 17.3% of the workforce in the United States, and the number will rise to 30% by 2060. Yet, the presence of Latinos in leadership positions still falls short; we represent a mere 4% of board seats, and only 20 Latinx CEOs are among those leading Fortune 500 companies.
Representation at the top is necessary for all companies to ensure they understand and are truly connecting with this growing demographic — but not only that, representation at the top is necessary to help pave the way for others who might not yet be aware of their own potential. That was especially true in my experience, and I wish that early on in my career, I had leaders and mentors to look up to that looked like me and came from a similar background. Instead, I had to learn a lot from trial and error as I forged a career path for myself not just in business, but in tech as well.
Tell us more about GemJuntos!
Raymon: Juntos is a Spanish word meaning “together,” which is fitting because that’s what the group is geared towards: bringing Gems together around Latindad! Having a group like GemJuntos is important to me because it helps foster an even stronger sense of togetherness and belonging among our team. ERGs like GemJuntos are a good reminder that, “Hey, I’ve got a community here too!”
GemJuntos meets twice a month to discuss topics like history and current events, or questions like “What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to us and how do we want to celebrate it?” We also use our meeting times to coordinate company-wide and community events (what we call “Moments”) that cultivate learning and appreciation for Latinidad.
How is GemJuntos celebrating HHM? What is GemJuntos planning next?
Jess: This is GemJuntos' first time officially celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and I'm proud of the efforts our ERG members have put towards planning so many fun and educational activities throughout the month. Personally, I'm really looking forward to playing La Loteria with my team members — I grew up playing this game and am excited to share a bit of my culture with others that might not know its cultural significance.
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