Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15th to October 15th, celebrates the contributions of the Hispanic community, the richness of Hispanic culture, and its vital role in shaping the contemporary world. Throughout this month, our SoFi Circle (employee resource group) known as SoFi Unidos, commemorated the vibrant diversity visible in the multitude of Hispanic and Latinx cultures represented at SoFi Technologies. This year's celebration was especially noteworthy as it marked the first time that the Circle was comprised of employees from both the United States and Latin America, reflecting a more inclusive representation of the Latinx community.
Additionally, October brought about a significant transition as longtime SoFi Unidos co-leads, Yesenia Rivera, DEI Program Manager, and Cassandra Jean-Baptiste, Senior Compliance Specialist, Licensing & Registration, passed the torch to two new co-leads, Xavier Lopez, Command Center Specialist II, and Adriana de la Torre, Credit Analyst. Throughout the month-long celebration, all four Circle leads united to showcase the beauty of the many cultures represented within SoFi Technologies, and emphasize the importance of embracing diversity and "unity through diversity."
To start, I’d like to understand from your perspective, what is the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month, and how are you going to be celebrating it?
Adriana: As a Chicana, this month allows me to highlight my heritage with more intention and purpose. It allows an open place for dialogue with allies, family, and within myself where we can celebrate our diversity more intentionally. I read Spanish books to my son, talk about our history, and use the time to be more in-tune with our culture.
Xavier: The Hispanic community has had major contributions to America since its inception and it's important to highlight the impact we've had. I celebrate the diversity within our community and honor the history from our various countries, backgrounds and traditions. This month provides an opportunity to learn from each other and foster connections by sharing our stories with those less familiar with our cultures, promoting unity and diversity.
Cassandra: Hispanic Heritage month helps me reflect on my heritage and the adversity that my ancestors overcame to get to where we are today. I also spend this month with my husband and son, celebrating my Latina culture and sharing family stories and traditions that I hope to pass on to my son.
Yesenia: I think this is an important time for people to learn how the Latino and Hispanic American community is not a monolith and should not be treated as one. Latino and Hispanic communities are rich and diverse with a multitude of ethnic, cultural, and historical layers dating back centuries. This month is about celebrating each of these cultures and the numerous contributions they each have had on the world. This month creates a platform for celebration, education, and continued awareness for the betterment of the future.
SoFi Unido’s theme to celebrate the month was “Si, Somos Unidos (Unity through Diversity).” Xavier and Cassandra, can you tell me about the theme and why you all chose it?
Xavier: One of our goals with the theme was to unite and celebrate all of the different cultures we have here at SoFi. We have Latinos/Latinas/Latinx representation and there are many things we share in common, in addition to the things that we can still learn from each other. We want to create a space for our members to share their experiences so that we can grow together as a community. We have Latin employees that have grown up in the United States and others that have spent their whole lives in Latin America, but at the end of the day we are all unified through our diversity.
Cassandra: To elaborate on that, the theme quite literally states "Yes, we are united." Regardless of the different adversities and obstacles each Hispanic/Latino country has had to face, we all make up this wonderful and large group of people who have the same fundamental roots from our ancestors and we all love to share our music, food, literature, and traditions with one another.
Adriana, can you give me an example of unity through diversity?
Adriana: Yes! Within our group discussions we’ve talked about the topic of “No sabo kids,” which is a popular term that refers to people from Latin/Hispanic descent who don't speak Spanish. Many of us are no longer experts in or native language, but this doesn't mean we’re no longer from our native cultures or connected to our ancestors, but it can be seen that way. Even though we are from different places, live in different countries, and may not speak the same language, we have many similarities that unify us as a people even if we have different experiences.
I can tell you all have a deep sense of pride for your Circle. Adriana, what is your favorite thing about being a part of the SoFi Unidos Circle?
Adriana: We have an amazing platform being part of the Unidos group and a wonderful community that is open and communicative. It can feel like we’re far removed, using a non-native dialect, not engulfed in cultural customs, and this group allows us to be open and related to others with a kinship that is like no other. I love to learn from others, especially our Latin American members. What they bring to Unidos is unmatched and like our name sake states, we are unified through our commonalities BUT I have learned so much about their respective countries and cultures. This group creates a place where we can be curious and relate to each other as well.
Yesenia, as one of the founding members, what makes you proud to be a part of SoFi Unidos?
Yesenia: Being a part of the Unidos Circle, especially as a founding member, is a beautiful opportunity to lean into being my own authentic self, in all of my Latinidad. Even more importantly, it’s about curating the space for others to do so as well - whatever that means in their own self-journey as a working Latina in the corporate tech space. I truly and wholly feel empowered to never have to shy away from who I am - I can be that big curly-haired, millennial Puerto Rican girl from the Southside of Chicago who loves to talk fast and wear big earrings. And I can be that at SoFi - which I will never take for granted because I have been in environments where I have had to code switch, straighten my hair to look more professional, and be sure to accentuate certain words so that my nasally accent doesn't come out too strong. Being a part of Unidos, for me, is a part of this tapestry of empowerment. It's powerful to know that I am part of a community that doesn't shy away from adversity - it meets it head on and there is strength in knowing who you are and helping others see their own strength through culture as well.
During your company-wide programming this month, you’ve emphasized there are many cultures within the Latinx community and that being Latinx can look different for everyone. In what way does your experience as a Latino/a highlight our company-wide value of the month “Be gritty, be accountable”?
Adriana: Our backgrounds are gritty. We come from a long ancestral line of hardship, courage, and resolve. The migrations, violence, labor and sacrifices are far from removed, they give us awareness and resilience.
Xavier: There are stereotypes about the Latinx community being hard workers and I think that this is part of the experience for some of us growing up with Latin parents. Both of my parents emigrated from El Salvador and worked extremely hard in order to provide for our family. We are taught that if you work hard, you'll be able to achieve whatever you can dream of.
Cassandra: Many times throughout my career I have had to stand up for myself and show courage amongst adversity, especially being a Latina woman. In those moments, I am reminded that with determination and accountability I can overcome any obstacle and persevere through any challenge.
Yesenia: I would argue that our entire community’s history is layered with grittiness. I think as Latinos, we face alot of external and even internally-induced stereotypes that we have to combat everyday. Being Latino/a/x is beautiful, complex, and deserving of celebration because of the amount of history and adversity that all of our Latino communities have faced and continue to face.
Last but not least, for all of us allies out there, what can allyship look like during Hispanic Heritage Month?
Adriana: Education as well as simple awareness. We are more than our skin color(s) and languages, but those are so important too! It's so important to see color, see the differences, and learn about what makes us unique and embrace that! Expose yourself to different cultures and notice things about them. Embrace the similarities but note the distinctions through education. We are more than our food, not everyone who speaks Spanish is from Mexico, and not everyone from Latin America identifies as Hispanic or Latinx. Learn with accountability and curiosity.
Yesenia: I agree with Adriana. Historically, the prototype of being “Hispanic or Latino” and what it “looks like” has been skewed dramatically. We need to challenge this and hold ourselves accountable to undo unconscious biases. To be an ally, you must actively promote and strive for inclusion with intentional and conscious effort. You can’t do this effectively without investing in your own self-awareness and pursuing the humility that comes from seeking to understand someone who is not like yourself.
Thank you for sharing Yesenia, Cassandra, Adriana, and Xavier! Your responses are a powerful reminder that diversity is one of our greatest strengths as an organization. By coming together to honor our differences and similarities, you have created a stronger, more vibrant, and more united SoFi Technologies.
The individuals featured are SoFi employees. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.
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