Can We Talk About the Silicon Valley?

Finding a tech job in the Silicon Valley isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you are Latino, the odds are not in your favor. When the nation’s biggest technology companies began releasing their diversity numbers, Latinos remained one of the most underrepresented groups, making up only three percent of all employees.

That’s why Laura Gomez, whose company uses algorithms to create inclusive hiring practices, is speaking out.

By relying less on college names or last names, and more on relevant skills and technical expertise, her company, Atipica, offers a way to bring diversity to the tech world. “It’s more about recognizing patterns and behavior, whether they’re implicit”, she explains.

Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Laura entered the U.S. at age ten along with her parents, who were were undocumented at the time. Her family settled in Redwood City, California, where she excelled in the classroom. But after school ended some days, Laura drove with her mother to Marine County—one of the wealthiest zip codes in the U.S. Together, they mounted winding staircases inside three and five million-dollar-homes, where they spent evenings wiping marble counter tops and scrubbing toilets. It was an unpleasant reality that her classmates never knew. “It’s not easy to watch your mom scrub toilets”, she says.

With a strong knack for math, Laura was encouraged by teachers to pursue a career in engineering or computer science. Then, at only seventeen, she accepted a summer internship at Hewlett Packard in the Bay Area. In the same year, she was admitted to U.C. Berkeley, Harvard, and Stanford. She opted for Berkeley, and eventually choose courses in economics and sociology.

After college, Laura found her way into tech coincidentally, eventual landing gigs at YouTube, (before it was acquired by Google) and Twitter. But even after graduating from U.C. Berkeley, and after working at prestigious tech firms, Laura found the job market relatively unfriendly to not only herself, but also to her peers of Latino-Americans who were similarly accomplished, but were often weeded out of hiring pools. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when the nation’s top tech companies began releasing their diversity numbers, that Laura could confirm her hypothesis. Out of the over 240,000 employees working at leading tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, fewer than 10,000 were Latino.

“People feel uncomfortable talking about race in Silicon Valley because we’re in California”, she explains. “We’re supposed to be so liberal.”

Tired of reading the statistics, Laura launched Atipica in early 2015. The company aims to eliminate hiring criteria that disqualify qualified minority applicants, with software that gets recruiters to focus more on the concrete skills that a candidate possesses, and less on his or her last name or gender. With features in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and USA Today, the company also secured enough investment capital to secure its foreseeable future.

“I want to see more girls like me in 20 years” she has said. “For me, it’s really about giving back and encouraging those who are intimidated by the tech industry to enter.”

So while getting hired at Google may not get easier right away, thanks to Laura, Latino applicants can at least give it a shot.

Alana Brownfeatured