Despite the fact that Hispanic/Latinx individuals make up 17% of total employment across all occupations in the U.S., they continue to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers, comprising only 8% of all STEM workers.
Addressing the challenge of diversity and equity in STEM is crucial and will require multi-faceted efforts that amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and create workplace cultures that center inclusion. This is particularly important for STEM companies, as diverse and inclusive environments lead to better ideas, more fruitful collaboration, and more innovative approaches to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse world.
Pictured: Blanca Batlle-Aguirre (left) and Lindsey Silva (right) speak at a Genentech “Change Sequence” event.
Genentech, a South San Francisco-based biotechnology company, is working to address these challenges. Earlier this year, the company committed to doubling Hispanic/Latinx representation among their top leadership ranks by 2025, and has developed several internal initiatives to enhance cross-cultural understanding and foster belonging among all employees.
Two Latinx leaders at Genentech, Blanca Batlle-Aguirre, Senior Trainer, Ophthalmology Access & Reimbursement, and Lindsey Silva, Senior Manager, Microbiology Global QC Technology, are contributing to these efforts by driving employee resource groups aimed at giving back, building community, and advocating for Latinx people in the workplace. Throughout their careers, they have discovered the following insights on what it means to bring their full authentic selves to the workplace, and hope to encourage others in their communities to do the same.
Be Your Authentic Self and Embrace Your Roots
“We shouldn’t feel guilty about being who we are and what our cultural identity is. We need to see it more as a source of strength and a superpower. We need to change the mindset that it is unprofessional to show up as our authentic selves. The more we talk about it, and role model it, the easier it will be,” says Lindsey who grew up in a multi-generational home with her Bolivian mother, Mexican American father, and Indigenous Aymara and Spanish grandfather.
When she took on a leadership role at Genentech, one of the first things she did to get to know her new colleagues was to have breakfast, but instead of bringing coffee and donuts, she brought homemade pastelitos and salteñas. “It was a great way to build camaraderie and showcase who I am as an authentic leader,” says Lindsey.
Take Initiative and Build Community
Blanca grew up in a diverse community in the Mission District in San Francisco where she learned at an early age the importance of inclusion. She is now the lead for VIDA, a Hispanic/Latinx employee resource group at Genentech.
Blanca says “I want to change our community from the inside out to make everyone feel engaged and included. At Genentech, we are also empowered to impact our communities, even outside of the workplace. For example, in 2020 we led a voter registration campaign, and invited a health equity advocate to address questions about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.”
This year, she’s excited about the impact that VIDA will continue to have, in part by uplifting the voices of Spanish-speaking patients and advocating for more in-language services to address the healthcare access barriers faced by Latinx patients.
Trust Your Expertise and Seek Allies for Support
As an introvert, Blanca learned to trust her intuition and expertise at Genentech. She says, “Naturally I’m an introvert, and I’m grateful to those people that would pull me aside and ask me for my opinion. They would reinforce that I should speak up and share my ideas. I was able to build up my confidence through a few really strong mentors, and as a result, I’m able to speak up for myself and others as well.”
She adds, “I know there are introverts on my team, so I think about how to pull the best out of them as well. It is important to me to create that sense of inclusivity for all.”
Use Your Voice to Amplify the Conversation About Diversity
Throughout her career, Lindsey has embraced diversity and inclusion and hopes that it becomes a larger conversation in the workplace. She says, “I want diversity and inclusion to be discussed more. Science isn’t just about the technical aspect; it’s about the people as well. When I share this with colleagues, it makes them more comfortable to share their Latinidad.” She adds, “Scientific innovation comes from a diverse mindset and a culture of inclusion.”
Genentech aspires to create meaningful change and foster an environment where all employees can bring their full selves to work, like Blanca and Lindsey. Learn more about Genentech and explore career opportunities at careers.gene.com.
Lindsey Silva, Ph.D.