On May 17th, Silicon Valley Latino – Cultura Ambassador, Andrea Guendelman and her team at BeVisible led an unprecedented event in the Bay Area, #BeWokeSF. The purpose and message of the event were clear challenging Silicon Valley: it is not enough to just hit certain diversity numbers. Companies must be intentional about going further than simply inclusion. They need to move towards developing a sense of belonging that leads to retention and productivity. As Andrea, co-founder of Be Visible and the event’s organizer, shared in her opening remarks, “Belonging is what we should be talking about all the time.”
#BeWokeSF, a next-gen career networking event, brought together over 500 underrepresented professionals to the Pearl in San Francisco to push the diversity and inclusion topic forward. The event was filled with razor-sharp conversations that included the power of female networks particularly in the era of #MeToo, equal pay, activism and multiculturalism in tech, and even the new frontier of dating apps.
Unique to the event was the incredibly diverse array of speakers and luminaries from Thaddeus Arroyo – CEO at AT&T Business to Beatriz Acevedo – co-founder and President at Mitú to Jesse Martinez founder at CareerForce to Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca founder & CEO at DREAMers RoadMap to
our very own, Silicon Valley Latino, founder & CEO, Alex Ontiveros. The rather long list of equally engaged forward-thinking organizations included Pathbrite, AT&T, Airbnb, Mitú, Backstage Capital, Tinder and Lucasfilm who spoke to a similarly diverse audience. For many, it was an important and one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect directly with others who shared their experience, insights, and expertise. “It means a lot to me to be invited to speak here today because this is really the first opportunity for me to speak to an audience who may be interested in not only my perspective of working in the entertainment industry for 20 years but as a woman working in the entertainment industry, as a woman of color working in the entertainment industry, and as a woman of color who is a first generation child of immigrant parents,” shared Keynote Speaker Julie Peng, Senior Manager of Talent & Production, ILMXLAB at Lucasfilm.
With electrifying energy, the conversations evolved through a series of short discussions that packed personal stories, data, and solutions. The general message: employers in this country need to move beyond the diversity index data to develop an organizational culture that makes the underrepresented talent community feel welcomed without feeling tokenized. A creative use and synergy of culture, lifestyle, tech, and storytelling offer a direct pathway to that.
“The days of talking about diversity are long gone. It’s time to act and that entails taking courageous and untraditional stances. As underrepresented minorities we don’t connect to a ‘thing’ an‘ethereal thing’. We connect to people, so companies need to start betting on diverse leadership and putting diverse leadership forward; it will change things,” said, Andrea Guendelman, the Harvard-educated Latinx entrepreneur. “At the same time, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community–we need to take our place as owners of this country and stop asking for permission to belong. As my friend Ana Flores from #WeAllGrow said, don’t just get a seat at the table. Build your own table and create your own room,” she added.
Guendelman created the career platform after experiencing first hand the difficulties of making it in the workplace without the necessary support networks and mentors. The platform was born in 2014 to help Latinx millennials and Gen Zers connect with the innovative mentors and leaders needed to increase diversity and inclusion in the business world. Today, BeVisible, through #BeWokeSF, is taking a stance for women, people of color, LGTBQ, and non-gender binary individuals. Among the corporate partners were Google, YouTube, Disney, Tinder, Spotify, Airbnb, Adobe, Charles Schwab, Williams Sonoma.
“Participating in BeVisibile’s inaugural conference helped us connect with the talented community in the Bay Area while facilitating important, candid discussions about inclusion, representation, and mentorship,” said Lina Alcala, VP of HR at Tinder. “Engaging in these conversations is important to us as a global company, and crucial in effecting positive change across industries.”
Beyond the discussions, guests participated in an intimate and immersive experience where they connected and built a community committed to fostering a more inclusive workplace that reflects the diversity of America.
The program closed with an epic party that paid homage to diversity and multiculturalism. Performances from Smoked Out Soul, Deuce Eclipse of Bang Data, Afrolicious, DJ Umami, the exquisite rapper Aima the Dreamer, DJ Icon with a Silent Disco, and other installations kept the crowd going. BeVisible is just getting started and have big plans for more dynamic #BeWoke events in the near future.
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