In My Reality, an editorial series from D CEO, North Texas executives share their personal experiences with diversity and bias. To recommend local business leaders who may be willing to share their experiences with diversity, equity, inclusion, prejudice, or biases, please email associate editor Kelsey Vanderschoot at [email protected].
“I grew up in Santa Barbara, California—one of six kids. My parents are immigrants from different parts of Mexico who came to the United States to pursue the American dream…I grew up with one foot in the Latino culture and the other in the American culture. I enjoyed listening to Mexican ranchero music and speaking Spanglish at home while talking about the NFL and Michael Jackson at school.
“This duality challenged me to keep learning, adapting, and growing every day in different and unique ways. Like many immigrants, my parents sacrificed a lot to give me and my siblings opportunities. They taught me the value of hard work, perseverance and laid a foundation for us to succeed. My parents are great role models.
“Growing up, I witnessed my parents experience discrimination in their lives and in their careers. It’s really hard to describe the feeling of seeing your parents treated unfairly when you’re a kid. It hits you hard and affects you, but my parents are strong and kept us moving forward. I learned early on that the world may not be fair to everyone. I learned that I might have to work harder and jump over some hurdles to get ahead, but that I could aspire for more. That helped me later on as I experienced my own version of unfairness and bias, but not to the same degree that my parents did.
“I did well in school and eventually received two master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and business administration. Now, years later, with a lot of effort and support from many different individuals, I’m the senior managing director for Accenture, serving as one of the senior-most leaders in our 500,000-person company.”
The Only One in the Room
“I’m privileged to be in a position where I can address some bias or ignorance head-on as it comes. When it comes to education, and in my career, I have witnessed a lack of representation and inclusion at times. I think it’s a common experience for people of color in professional positions—the feeling of being the only one that looks like you in the room. It can limit how you feel about belonging.
“There’s always a feeling of responsibility when you’re the only Hispanic, or person of color, in the room, but over time, you have to become comfortable with what originally was uncomfortable. After a certain point, you’re just another leader in the room. There’s also a duality involved. On one hand, you’re a Hispanic leader, but on the other hand, you’re responsible for being a leader—part of the leadership team—and giving back in your own way.
“In life, you deal with things like unconscious bias and other things that are stronger than that. For many of us, you almost get used to it, and you get used to dealing with it directly or indirectly. Sometimes, you’re able to handle it directly; other times, you can’t. In all cases, you have to just keep moving forward. The main point is not letting it hold you back.”
“I believe, fundamentally, that everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed. I know that if we give people a chance, great things can happen. I’ve seen it in my life and in many other people’s lives. Each of us has a responsibility to help each other. Right now, we live in a world that needs a lot of help addressing social inequalities and giving everyone educational and career opportunities.
“I do believe that some progress has been made, but now is the time for real change. I’m fortunate to be part of a big business community and am proud to work for Accenture. We’re an organization that continues to increase our commitment and renew our focus on inclusion and diversity. We’re viewed as a leader, and we have a focus on continuing to get better.
“When I discuss diversity with business and community leaders, I feel hopeful that things are changing, even as we go through some difficult times right now. There is a lot of commitment right now from different Dallas business leaders to make change and improve things.
“I have the privilege of serving on the board of the Dallas Regional Chamber and am part of the DRC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, where many business leaders from public and private organizations are working together to make Dallas a more inclusive and equitable place.”
“In the United States, there are 58 million Hispanics who represent 18 percent of the U.S. population and $1.8 trillion in buying power. In the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Hispanics make up about 29 percent of the population. At the same time, we have a talent shortage in some of our industries. If we can address the challenges of education, income, and health in those communities by giving back to North Texas, we give them the opportunity to help our economic prosperity as a whole.
“When I think about leadership, it begins with commitment and communicating. Internally and externally, communicating the need for inclusion and diversity in a business is imperative, but I also think that commitment is not enough. You have to be bold and take action to solve existing gaps; Figure out where you are and measure the organization’s progress to get towards where you want to be. Leaders have a personal responsibility to bring others along, take specific steps towards progress, and hold people accountable.
“As a father to wonderful and talented Hispanic children and the uncle to many wonderful nieces and nephews, I’m optimistic that we can make a difference in the lives of the next generation. When I have discussions with them, I’m even more optimistic that now’s the time for change. We need to make improvements on racial and economic equity, inclusion, and diversity for the future of our country.”