Job Title: · CEO & President, Webhead
Company Website: https://www.webheadtech.com
Years working in the tech industry: 24
I’m first generation everything. Was I raised with a strong sense that I would be afforded equal opportunities? No. With great belief in my own potential? No. I was raised with an impeccable work ethic, a strong sense of family and community values.
We were the first San Antonio tech start-up, in 1994, and the first 100% minority owned web company. It took eleven years to generate our first million dollars in revenue, and thirteen years to establish a bank line of credit. We survived the dot.com crash and now here we are, with a twenty-four year history of IT leadership and success.
On an absence of female mentors:
Very few women mentored me. I give credit to my Mom and my college mentor.
My mom had a horrible childhood and the made a point to give her kids the best chance she could offer. My father was not a supportive husband in many areas, and yet she did her best. She was an entrepreneur out of necessity, to make ends meet for us. She would start popups all the time for quick cash. We sold raspas, crafts, clothes, raffle tickets, etc. She was resourceful and strategic to get this done.
Letty was my college mentor. She invested time and resources, and she aided my college education with jobs, volunteerism, money and inspiration. She was my first exposure to feminism. She told me it was okay to be different, encouraged me to use my voice, to use my talents in communication etc. Today we are still great friends.
On the biggest challenge for young women at the outset of their careers:
The BroTechClub. The culture is horrible.
On what’s important in mentoring others:
Be an authentic leader.
On being passed over:
Yes. In contracts, on boards, in sharing ideas — and based on gender, ethnicity AND social-economic status.
On sexual harassment:
Of course. From a client, from stratgic teaming partners, from people in government/political positions.
On the challenges of fund-raising as a woman:
I received nothing. I was not taken seriously, and the experiences frankly were discouraging, belittling and humiliating, more than I like to count or think about it.
On stereotypes of race and gender:
I have pages on PowerPoint presentations that relate to this. On the Latina sterotype — how we are seen as curvaceous sexpots, sexually desirable amongst our so-called peers… or else portrayed as maids.
There are only twenty-three female CEOs of S&P’s Fortune 500 companies — not even 5 percent. According to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, a girl born today will be 81 years old before she has the same chance as a man to be a CEO.
Meanwhile, female CEO’s are frequently perceived as operating only as the face of the company, without having a tech backgroung; or else, we’re seen as overly aggressive.
On the use of gender-neutral term ‘Latinx’:
I don’t care for it. I am all for self-identity, the need to declare how you feel and who you relate to (culture, ethnicity, gender, gender fluid) etc. But I don’t believe being Latina CEO makes me exclude any gender. On the contrary, I am more inclusive than most by including my Hispanic/Mexican American Culture. Movements like this take away from where we originate, and that is the whole point — to take pride in where we come from.
On advances in career opportunities for women and ethnic minorities:
It’s better than it was, but not nearly where it needs to be - especially here in San Antonio. On the East/West Coast things are much better for career opportunities - not to say that the Tech Bromance doesn’t exist there as well.
I entered the field in 1994, but today, as a Mexican-American/Latina CEO, I represent less than 5% of CEO’S within our country.
On the contemporary moment:
I am optimistic about today like tomorrow, but also a realist. My experience is that cultural background and socioeconomics play a huge role in who has access to opportunities e.g. education, funding, clients, etc. This will never be fair. However, it doesn’t define you. It makes things harder, but you can do it with passion and grit. I am a testament to this.
On how the contemporary moment will be defined:
We all have our moment in time — the test is in long term change for future generations.
On the steps women must take to make positive change lasting:
We need to stop being ugly to each other, invest in other women, and learn how to work together.
On how culture is not, ultimately, all-determining:
My life has been filled with almost insurmountable hills of frustration, anger and pain from my day-to-day reality, yet my colorful journey has afforded me countless opportunities to challenge stereotypes, defy perceptions and create opportunites. I define my own legacy of success.