Facing the future with tenacity and resilience

 |   Alvaro Celis, Vice President, WW Device Partner Solution Sales

Alvaro Celis HHM

The Hispanic and Latinx community has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic due in large part to deeply rooted societal inequalities. According to findings from the New York Times, counties where at least 25% of the population is Latino recorded an increase of 32% in virus cases, compared to only 15% in all other counties. Prior to the pandemic, Latinx small-business owners were the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S, with 4.4 million of the 8.7 million minority owned small and medium sized businesses in the country, being Latinx-owned.[1]  Due to the pandemic, Latinx unemployment rose to 18.9% in April 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which exceeded figures for all other ethnic groups (16.7% for Black, 14.5% for Asian and 14.2% for white).

Against this backdrop it may seem like there isn’t much to celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month, but on a daily basis I have the privilege of being reminded of the contrary, and inspired by stories I hear among the Hispanic and Latinx community here at Microsoft and outside, from different members of the community rising up to the occasion.  Authenticity, resilience, and tenacity make up the fabric of our being. This is who we are, and who we’ve always been. This unbreakable spirit lives in each of us.  And as proof of that, everywhere I can see where our community is mobilizing to connect and lift each other up during these most challenging of times.

Organizations such as HITEC, where I have the honor of being a board member, moved quickly to create “Wellness Wednesday” sessions as a space to focus on overall well-being. The Hispanic Star Movement has put in place a Hispanic Response and Recovery plan to help mitigate the immediate economic impact of COVID-19 and to set a path to recovery for Hispanic-owned small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurs, and independent workers. Our own Microsoft HOLA (Hispanic/Latinx Organization of Leaders in Action) employee resource group (ERG) team created a weekly forum to share best practices and action plans to help our community during the COVID-19 outbreak. Across our 24 HOLA chapters, dedicated volunteers have donated their time to help train customers to get up and running with their virtual workforce and students. This rise to the call to action is exactly what I expect from our community, now more than ever. But we need more.

I call on my fellow community and business leaders beyond those in our Hispanic and Latinx community to engage and become more active in mobilizing their organizations and circles of influence to support our community even after the pandemic crisis. History has proven that movements for social equality are not addressed by the affected community alone; they are accelerated and strengthened when allies join in the rally. The Hispanic and Latinx community has long been a vital part of American history, culture, and economy. I invite business and government leaders who are not members of our community to learn more about the diversity among us, learn what drives us, learn about the values we bring and the perspectives we have that are critical to our broader society thriving for generations to come.

Similarly, our own Hispanic and Latinx community has an incredible opportunity to build more bridges with other communities such as the Black and African American community and the LGBTQI+ community. The ongoing heartbreaking escalation of social injustice affects us all. There is so much intersectionality across groups, and we share so many overlapping challenges and opportunities that we should be working together with a broad and inclusive perspective. The only way to make real progress is to unite, embrace our differences, connections, and similarities, and work together for bigger, collective impact.

And for us as a Hispanic and Latinx community, we also need to step up higher-engage in learning and education opportunities to raise our own capabilities and prepare ourselves better for the world after the pandemic. One of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.  I am very proud to see the Microsoft skilling initiative announced earlier this year with LinkedIn where we aim to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy. When it comes to a career in tech overall, recent HITEC sponsored research shows that the Latino community has shown strong resiliency. Let’s take advantage of this inherent drive and determination in our culture. It is up to us-as individuals, as families, as neighbors-to encourage each other to seize the opportunities and pursue paths that technology gives us to have a greater role and influence in culture, government, business, the economy, and society as a whole.

I am a firm believer that the learnings and strengths we have acquired through these unprecedented times will make us all better-personally, professionally, and as a society. I am inspired by the commitment we have at Microsoft to the positive impact that technology is having in the Hispanic and Latinx community. But I am also proud of how we as a community continue to meet challenges head on, doggedly bringing our voz, our vibrance, and our values to bear so that we can continue making positive impact in all the places we live and work.

Please visit microsoft.com/en-us/hispanic-heritage-month/ where we celebrate the voices and experiences of some of our Hispanic and Latinx employees at Microsoft. If you want to learn more about broader initiatives for diversity and inclusion at Microsoft please visit here.

Follow Alvaro on Twitter, @alvarocelis and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alcelis/

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