Influential Latina women are changing the face of technology every day—but you might not know it.
Women in general have worked in programming since the dawn of computing, but as wages rose and white men in power realized programming wasn’t another form of secretarial work, they actively worked to exclude women and recruit men in their places. Thus, it’s important to acknowledge not only the overall contributions of women in tech, but specifically those of women who must overcome systematic disenfranchisement to succeed.
Today, we’re concentrating on the Latinx demographic and five successful Latina women who truly stand out in the tech world and should serve as inspiration to all of us, but especially to young Latina women who dream of working in tech.
Laura I. Gomez
Laura I. Gómez is the founder and CEO of Atipica, an inclusive AI talent platform. She is also a founding member of Project Include, a nonprofit driving diversity in the tech industry. Journalist Raquel Reichard described Gómez as one of the “leading ladies in tech,” and that’s not an overstatement.
Gómez first came to the US from Mexico at 10 years old to reunite with her mom, who had moved to the US for medical treatment several years earlier.
At 17, Gómez landed an internship with Hewlett-Packard, springboarding her to an incredible career. She has since worked at Twitter, where she helped lead international expansion, as well as at YouTube and Jawbone.
In 2015, inspired—according to Helena Price at Techies—by a panel discussion she had had with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the heads of diversity at Facebook and Google, Gómez founded Atipica. Their conversation kept coming back to implicit and unconscious biases—but none of the proposed solutions were scalable.
So Gómez looked to technology to better understand how to tackle the issue. The result was a business intelligence tool that helps businesses “adapt to what the workforce looks like now and what the workforce will look like in 5 or 10 years,” Gómez tells Alchemist Accelerator.
Ariel Lopez is an Afro-Latina career coach, entrepreneur, and public speaker. She is the CEO of Knac (formerly 2020Shift), a skills platform that aims to reinvent the job application for professionals and companies.
Speaking to Essence’s Chasity S. Cooper, Lopez says, “Knac will allow for professionals to showcase their skills to employers through assessments and challenges, so they can get hired solely based on their qualifications.”
Lopez argues this is good not only for employees, but for companies’ bottom lines, too. As she explains to Revolt’s Dev T. Smith. “If it wasn't for our support of these companies’ products and services, then they wouldn't be multi-million dollar companies. In order to make better products and services, you need to make sure your consumers are reflected and that their voices are heard.”
A careers expert and diversity advocate, Lopez has spoken at a number of conferences, including Tech Inclusion, Greenhouse Open, and Blacktech Week. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and has been featured in Ebony, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, and Business Insider.
Nathalie Molina Niño
Nathalie Molina Niño is a serial entrepreneur, venture partner, strategic advisor, and author. She started her first company at age 20. Since then, Molina Niño has helped to build a $100-million-dollar company at Lionbridge; launched BRAVA Investments, a company that helps businesses that benefit women; and advised numerous organizations, including Disney, MTV, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Affairs Council.
“Her entrepreneurial drive along with her passion for supporting women across various industries has led Molina Niño to develop a rich and rewarding career building new ventures and creating exciting opportunities that span diverse sectors,” writes entrepreneur and fashion designer Carrie Hammer.
Those ventures include Entrepreneurs@Athena at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies of Barnard College, which Niño co-founded, and where she remains an advisor. The entrepreneurship program aims to level the playing field for women by teaching them the skills they need to build a company.
And Niño’s contributions don’t stop there: She’s is a published author, too. Her book, LEAPFROG: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs, is the startup guide for anyone who isn’t a white male with wealthy friends and family. In it, she shares 50 hacks women entrepreneurs can use to clear the seemingly insurmountable hurdles that can handicap anyone without capital or connections.
Monterroso has a passion for social equality and has devoted her career to scaling social enterprises. Prior to joining Code2040, Monterroso worked as the director of talent and director of advocate engagement at Health Leads, where she established processes that helped the organization triple in size to more than 70 employees.
She first joined Code2040 in 2014 as VP of programs before stepping up to CEO in 2018. In this current role, Monterroso is helping to build the largest racial equity community in tech and to remove the barriers that prevent the full participation of Black and Latinx people in the tech industry.
Speaking to reporter Dexter Thomas at SXSW, Monterroso advocates for diversity as a competency, just like computer engineering. She points out that when we have a software problem in front of us, we have no problem calling on an engineer to help, but we don’t view solving diversity problems as requiring the same expertise.
Too often, Monterroso explains on TechCrunch’s CTRL+T podcast, the burden of change at any given company falls on already marginalized individuals: “What we’re really talking about is the integration of the workforce. You have a segregated tech workforce, you are integrating it. You are asking the first people at the table to be the tech Ruby Bridges [the first African American student to integrate public schools in the American South] and to come in and be full-throated in their opinions, but you are not setting up the safety mechanisms for those people to be able to do that safely.”
These expectations ultimately create a demanding and hostile work environment for people of color, leading many to drop out of the industry after just a couple years, Monterroso says.
By establishing a community and providing ongoing training, career programs, and knowledge sharing, Code2040 aims to equip minority technologists with everything they need to work toward racial equity in the industry.
Soledad Antelada Toledano
Soledad Antelada Toledano is the first female computer systems engineer and researcher in the cyber security division at Berkeley National Lab. She’s also a network security team lead at SciNet High Performance Computing Consortium—and the president of the Women Scientists & Engineers Council, as well as the founder of Girls Can Hack, a regular meetup in San Francisco for women who are interested specifically in tech and cyber security.
Toledano has created a space where women of all experience levels and abilities can come together to share knowledge and advice, and get help breaking into the industry.
Speaking to Natalie Cardenas of Latinx media platform mitú, Toledano acknowledges the barriers to entry for women interested in cyber security. “Only 10 percent of people in cyber security are women, and the numbers are not going up,” she says. “It is an extremely hostile field for women. Cyber security nowadays is the base of the change and advancement in tech. It is changing the world politically and economically, and women are missing out.”
Toledano wants Girls Can Hack to change this. “I’d like to normalize the fact that girls choose this type of career and that they become cyber engineers,” she explains to journalist Gabriela Pineda. “Cyber security is shaping the world and women are being left out once again. I also would like to expand GCH to other countries like Spain and transform the organization in a hub for talent.”
Want to follow in Toledano’s footsteps and build a career in the lucrative cyber security industry? In partnership with the City of New York, Fullstack Academy is offering a 17-week immersive program to teach you the skills you need to land a high-paying cyber security job. Get the scoop here.