Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Abriendo Puertas: Opening doors

My heritage is an instrumental part of who I am – personally and professionally – and a great source of pride.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, an island where three cultures have always coexisted – equality, the belief that as human beings we all have the same value – was instilled in me at an early age. I was raised in a family whose commitment to education spanned many generations and our connection to networks of faith and friends taught me the importance of community.

Today, communities in US corporate environments are out of alignment. Latinos occupy only about 4% of senior executive roles at large US companies*, yet we make up 19% of the US labor force and the US population. It’s moments like Hispanic Heritage Month that force us to acknowledge this lacking representation and give leaders the nudge to open new doors for a more diverse and inclusive corporate world.

Becoming aware

After finishing college in the US mainland, I soon learned firsthand about the barriers facing Latinos in the American workplace. I joined a global company where my husband – then boyfriend – worked. He repeatedly told me to ensure I was given the correct color badge that labeled me as a US citizen, which granted higher levels of clearance than badges of a different color given to employees with a US work visa.

I brushed him off not thinking much of it – of course they would give me the correct badge; as I was born a US Citizen. On my first day, to my surprise, I was given the wrong color badge. Immediately doors shut and I was treated differently, given lower levels of clearance than if I had the correct badge.

While the color of my badge was quickly corrected, it was an eye-opening experience of what happens when people act on assumptions or appearance rather than knowledge or understanding.

Grounded by the values ingrained in my childhood, and fueled by my ambitious and competitive nature, I took advantage of training programs, seized opportunities for new experiences and developed a network that prepared and enabled me to advance through my career.

Paying it forward

More recently, the murder of George Floyd instigated a movement that made me realize I – we – need to do more to address the painful inequities. I joined the Latin Executive Alliance: a cross-company group whose goal is to advance Latino representation in Corporate America.

It’s up to all of us to open doors and do the work to hire diverse individuals, lift their voices and ensure fair treatment and the opportunity for full participation. From the Board Room to the front line, we at Pitney Bowes are committed to doing the work and creating an inclusive environment where all can grow and succeed to create a thriving future for our clients, our employees, our company and our communities.

* Source: 2021 Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) Corporate Inclusion Index