Here’s a scary stat: less than 2% of the technology sector workforce is made up of Latinas. And yet tech is all across our lives. What are you reading these show notes on right now? How are you listening to this podcast?
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Theresa Gonzales is a childfree, third-generation Mexican-American, and the CEO and producer of the podcast Latinas from the Block to the Boardroom. Her podcast is a social justice platform that focuses on women of color, especially Latina voices. And one of Theresa’s primary concerns is how tech, especially artificial intelligence, represents Latinas.
Having worked for several major tech companies, Theresa is able to leverage her unique experience to expose the potential downsides of AI. And not to spoil the episode, but it’s not great. Since few Latinas have access to write the code, we can’t be accurately represented by the code. Instead we’re mired in culturally demeaning stereotypes.
But we feel strongly that Gen Z will turn that around by dismantling the double standards in the industry, and use their bold sense of self to create healthy boundaries in these corporate and creative spaces.
This episode is an illustration of the heartbreaks of assimilation, the quiet blessing of infertility and “otherhood,” and the lessons learned from nearly 2 decades in the tech space.
Find Theresa online at:
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In this episode
- Forbes article on Latinas in tech and gender pay gap: On Latina Equal Pay Day: Let’s Get More Latinas Into Tech
- Luz Media Instagram post highlight 2% of Latinas in tech
- Latinas From The Block To The Boardroom episode: Central Valley Latinas of Modesto Building Digital Equity for Marginalized Communities
- LVMC episode with Pam Covarrubias
- Info on Employee Resource Groups (ERGs):
- SXSW 2023
- Statue of Liberty poem: The New Colossus
- NPR article: Harris Tells Guatemalans, ‘Don’t Come,’ Don’t Migrate To The U.S.
- People of color in tech and tech-adjacent spaces:
- McKinsey report on diversity
- Resources on Chicanos in the military:
- NPR video: The Draft | On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam
- Books on Chicanos and the military:
- Video interview with author Charlie Trujillo: The Better Part: One Man’s Journey through War and Life
- Muhammad Ali docuseries on PBS
- TikTok of Gen Z Latinas creating boundaries in corporate
- Other podcasts mentioned:
- NPR article on Texas healthcare access: Girls in Texas could get birth control at federal clinics — until a dad sued
- Various resources on healthcare access in Texas
- Latinas in Tech: Build Your Own House with Theresa Gonzales
- Supporting the Next Generation of Brown and Black Girls with Theresa Gonzales
- Surviving Assimilation in the Central Valley with Theresa Gonzales
- Unity in Broken Spaces with Theresa Gonzales
[00:00] Paulette: Buen día mi gente and welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the place where childfree Spanglish speaking Latinas are inspired to find their confidence, la confianza, to overcome some of the bullshit and toxicity in our culture. I’m your host, Paulette Erato.
[00:19] Yo conocí Theresa, I met Theresa at a podcasting event of all things. That’s right. She’s a podcaster too. We met at Podcast Movement Evolutions in LA right after this podcast launched. Well, the old version of this podcast.
[00:33] Theresa is an incredible woman who I have an immense respect and admiration for, especially as a Latina podcaster, but also just as a person. Heads up, this is gonna be an emotional episode. It has a lot of references to the toxicity and BS in our culture that I’m here to help dismantle. And I am forever grateful to Theresa for sharing her story here with me today.
[00:57] Let me give you a little background on her. Theresa E. Gonzalez is the CEO and producer of the podcast, Latinas from the Block to the Boardroom. She has worked for companies such as Facebook, Google, Oracle, Dell. And is leveraging her Silicon Valley knowledge and story of how Latinas are the least represented in the C-suite and boardrooms of major tech companies, nonprofits, and major corporations.
[01:20] The podcast is a social justice platform for all women of color, but mostly to bring in the voices of Latinas who are creating their own leadership roles, new products or services or nonprofit organizations that seek social and financial justice. We’re going to talk a lot about social justice issues today, especially as they affect women of color. Theresa is a survivor in a lot of ways, but I’ll let her tell you all about that herself.
[01:46] Today I have with me Theresa Gonzalez. She is the CEO and producer of a really great podcast. Everybody needs to go and subscribe to immediately called Latinas from the Block to the Boardroom. Theresa, thank you so much for being here today.
[02:01] Theresa: Thank you for having me Paulette. I mean, it’s just wonderful to share in this space of more Latinas getting their stories and their voices out in this podcasting realm and I’m so happy we found each other at Evolutions Los Angeles over a year ago.
[02:19] Paulette: It’s our one year anniversary.
[02:21] Theresa: Oh, I’ll send you flowers.
[02:23] Paulette: I was running around this space cuz I didn’t know anyone. I was like, fine. Where are all the Latinos at? And here’s this lady with a table and a banner that said Latinas in big letters all across it. And I’m like, well, she’s gonna become my best friend.
[02:36] Theresa: It was a beacon, a calling beacon, like, Hey, if you’re a person of color, come over here.
[02:42] Paulette: Right? There were so few of us. So Theresa, it turns out, is also a childfree Latina.
[02:48] Theresa: Yes.
[02:49] Paulette: But we’ll get into that because more importantly than that, she’s a kick ass Latina with a background in tech, which is so rare. I just saw a post this morning I tagged you in: Luz Media reported that less than 2% of the population in tech is Latinas.
[03:07] Theresa: Yeah.
[03:08] Paulette: And I know you have a lot to say about that. Your podcast is dedicated to this topic, so let’s talk about it.
[03:14] Theresa: Yeah, I mean, I think I even gave that stat. I think combined Latinos in general across the industry are about four or 5%, and that’s not even a representation of in the C-Suite. So it’s really hard.
[03:29] We’re purple squirrels, as I say, when we’re there.
[03:33] Paulette: What does that mean?
[03:34] Theresa: That means it’s such a rare thing. It’s like it’s such an unusual find, right? It is rare and what, but we are there and a lot of people are like, oh no, we’re there. You just gotta go to the ERG groups. And I’m like, okay. I’ve been to those ERG groups and I never see any leadership there.
[03:52] I always see Latinos that are working hard to create community. And when I was there, it was for free, their free time. They were not getting paid to do any of this to create a community inside a tech environment that was supposed to elevate us, and it was really weird. I have a lot to say on that and maybe I’ll do a podcast on that, but it’s really difficult.
[04:13] Yeah, less than 2% I would say for Latinas in general. And when you look at what’s happening right now, you know, it’s like people are like, I don’t wanna get into tech. It sounds so mismatched and so crazy and I don’t wanna do it. And it’s like, well, you don’t have to do it. But our, like we were saying earlier, Paulette, our whole lives are run by tech and it should be we’re running tech, not tech is running us and that’s what’s happening.
[04:39] And my last podcast that I did, I was talking to ladies who didn’t have a tech background. They just had regular skills, right? They were just community organizers and they were able to get into the space. So it just takes a lot of ganas. Seriously, if you wanna do it, and everybody is welcome into the space, and I always say, if the door isn’t big enough, then go make your own table, door.
[05:07] Build your own house. That’s what I like to say within that space, because it’s much needed.
[05:12] Paulette: It is much needed.
[05:14] We’re about to jump into Theresa’s presentation that she gives on the dangers of AI or artificial intelligence. Don’t worry, she’s not trying to scare monger. But as a person who has worked in tech for nearly two entire decades, she has the background knowledge on why this discussion is important.
[05:31] But before we get into that, I wanna note that she’s the second guest to mention ERGs in the corporate space. Pam Covarrubias also mentioned working with them. ERG stands for Employee Resource Group and they started in the sixties when black workers at Xerox organized to discuss racial tensions. There are benefits and downsides to them, and I’ll leave you a few links in the show notes for you to learn more for.
[05:55] Now, here’s more on the dark side of AI, the greater internet at large, and a lot about the tech sector.
[06:02] So, to rewind back a little bit, Theresa just gave a presentation. You’ve given this presentation multiple times in the podcasting space about how AI is really ignoring, not just Latinos in general, but what’s the word that I’m looking for?
[06:19] Latinas are being positioned as something exotic and not something seriously. Do you wanna talk more about that?
[06:27] Theresa: Yeah, so just to back up a little bit, I was in tech for 18 years, but my background and my degree is in business. So I was able to work that angle very early on, you know, with the connection of getting into tech and that was around a creative space.
[06:44] So AI back, you know, AI’s been around for a long time actually. It’s just the hype. I call it the hype beast right now around AI because of Chat GPT. It’s like whatever it’s been around. And um, I’ve been talking about how our representation is all by how we put information out there, right? And I’m talking about code.
[07:05] I’m not talking about Instagram photos, I’m not talking about whatever. I’m talking about the code, and that’s what I say. There is a narrative that is dominant that is not our own because we, like you just said, 2% of Latinas in tech, and if we’re not writing the code and making the platforms more trustworthy and usable in that space, then you can see what is tagging us.
[07:33] Or representing us as a dominant narrative that is a historical disadvantage of stereotypes towards us. And it’s also something that’s culturally demeaning because a lot of Latinas are starting businesses more than ever. We’re in the nonprofit space being community champions, and we’re also building platforms and technology that doesn’t get hyped enough.
[08:01] And so when you think about that and you see, oh, there’s a dating ad for Latinas and how to find Latinas online, and you don’t see the other narrative that we’re pushing out, there’s something wrong. And that’s what I talk about. Like let’s be clear that Google owns 90% of the search universe, of the entire technology universe.
[08:26] And when you think there’s only 2% of Latinas in the entire overall technology space, I mean just, this is what I’m talking about. There’s a little math problem in there, but I think it’s pretty easy of what’s, what’s popping out.
[08:40] Paulette: Yeah. So after the first time I heard your speech, I did a little experiment.
[08:44] And I asked Chat GPT to tell me something about childfree Latinas, like describe childfree Latinas for me. And what it did is gave me a very generic, I didn’t know that I needed to prompt it in a certain way, but that’s fine. We’re all learning. Right? And it just gave me this very generic thing about childfree people in general.
[09:04] And you could have taken the word Latina out and put in Nigerian, Asian, like any flavor of any color, like American, it, it didn’t matter. It did not have anything to do with Latinas specifically.
[09:17] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[09:17] Paulette: And I made a reel about it. And the tech bros did not like it. They really did not like it. They’re like, it’s racist of you to say this.
[09:25] Theresa: Oh my God.
[09:27] Paulette: Clearly they were younger people who do not have a lot of real world experience if they don’t even understand what racism is.
[09:34] Theresa: Right.
[09:34] Paulette: Not the issue. But people really don’t like that message. They don’t want to believe that that’s in any way true. Because it doesn’t one, benefit them or two, affect them.
[09:45] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[09:46] Paulette: That it affects us. Us as Latinas, us as the listeners of these programs, us as the users, like we were saying, tech is all across our lives.
[09:55] Theresa: Yeah. I mean, what we’re using today is through a platform that is operated through coding and technology that was built by men. I think cuz if you go to the company’s website, all you gotta do is look at the team.
[10:11] So that’s what I also do is I always look at the companies that say they do brand trust, they do brand safety, they’re about diversity and inclusion. And then I go right to their website and I look at their board of directors. Or I look at their team of product people or who actually how many women and are there women and people of color on their board or on their product teams or anything like that.
[10:39] And if it’s a big no, then I don’t believe them. You cannot be a part of that. I mean, we have allies. Yes. I’m not gonna say no, we don’t have allies. We do, but you really have to put your money where your mouth is about creating safe space and being allies. And if there’s nobody on your board or on your entire team, then you’re just a bowl of caca to me.
[11:02] Paulette: It, it is a bowl of caca, and I’m with you. It’s always so discouraging to see boards of diverse men. Great, great. There is some diversity. We have had a Black president in this country.
[11:15] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[11:15] Paulette: Fantastic.
[11:17] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[11:18] Paulette: But are we gonna have a a woman president anytime soon? And will she be brown? The answer is no.
[11:22] Theresa: Yeah.
[11:23] Paulette: And the idea that I’m gonna see that in my lifetime feels so absurd and yet, why? Why? Because I’ve grown up in the environment where people like me do not exist in those environments. Right?
[11:36] Theresa: Yeah.
[11:36] Paulette: So I have to see it to believe it. Just like when we look at the product developers of products we want to use and want to feel like are supporting us, we want them to look like us.
[11:47] Theresa: Right, and it’s interesting, I came from South by Southwest. I went to some panels where they were talking about their entrepreneur journey, how they were getting funded to start these companies. There were a few women of color that I saw, not many, but they were talking about when they had to go in front of VCs to pitch.
[12:10] And this is really troubling, and this is very relevant to all of this that we’re talking about, especially your podcast Paulette, is these women of color. And there was a couple of white women there too when they pitched the VCs, which were mostly men. Mostly men, asked them, well, how is this going to impact your family life, your kids?
[12:33] Is this gonna get in the way of your parenting? Will you be able to dedicate more than a hundred percent because you’re married? These were questions that were asked, and men are married too. They are never asked, how much is your family gonna suffer from you being a full-time entrepreneur? Can you travel?
[12:56] Are you gonna be able to travel for these in your marketing plan here? Is your family gonna be okay? That is never asked of men, mostly because they, there were men on these panels that they didn’t say anything because they know, they never get asked those questions. As a woman, you’re challenged on your family, motherhood, if you’re pitching to a VC to start a business.
[13:23] Paulette: I’m just gonna take a shot in the dark here. But I bet that if they said no, their family life would not be impacted, raising children, whatever, whatever. If they said no or even claim to be childfree, that would also be a dark mark against them.
[13:37] Theresa: Yes.
[13:37] Paulette: Not just saying yes. So either way, they were fucked.
[13:41] Theresa: Yes.
[13:41] Paulette: Either way they answered the question. They were fucked.
[13:44] Theresa: It’s almost like you damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s like, oh, well then are you questioned as like, why are you not in a relationship? The all these things for women to be funded and it’s a mind fuck, really.
[13:58] It’s a way to keep you down to say you’re not gonna make it.
[14:01] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[14:01] Theresa: You’re not gonna make it in this space. And it’s always been challenging for women to get a business off the ground just from the lack of finances because we are the least also represented in the financial sector. How many women started at Goldman Sachs?
[14:18] You know how many women are like starting Fidelity, right? A retirement, you know, there are a couple that have just come out, but still, until we start owning that narrative as well of financial ownership, then it becomes a different conversation.
[14:35] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[14:36] Theresa: Definitely.
[14:37] Paulette: So what’s the fix?
[14:40] Theresa: You know, that’s interesting.
[14:41] I always say we need to be more bold and we need to step into those arenas. They may be hard and we might feel like, oh man, this is really rough. Or, how do I navigate the space? If you can find a mentor or sponsor in the organization and if you don’t feel, then work there and see what you can take as knowledge and then like clay you make something else from your experience.
[15:08] Because I think that’s what you and I have done, here today in this space. And I, I feel hopeful, I really do about the future. You know, you were talking earlier like, will we ever see a woman of color in the White House? Well, there is one, but she’s just a vp.
[15:25] Paulette: Yes. And I don’t see her getting the nomination.
[15:28] Theresa: No. But there’s a lot of other people. The next generation, which I’m very supportive and you know, I really love the energy. Although, sometimes just, they don’t know a lot of things, but that’s what we’re here for. And I love them. I do, I learn a lot from them. And hopefully they learn a lot from us. Right.
[15:47] Paulette: Well, Gen Z is in what I saw described as their loud and wrong phase right now, but they’re living it publicly online, so they’re being loud and very comfortable in the things that they’re saying.
[15:59] Even if they are wrong, and no one is correcting them yet. But it’ll happen and they’ll look back on this and they will cringe and they will learn. And sometimes we all have to go through it. And I love Gen Z. My niece and nephews are all Gen Z and I learn a lot from these kids and I’m always so surprised, pleasantly, by how well they seem to know themselves.
[16:22] It’s like they took all this generational bullshit that’s been passed down for the last hundred years and they were like, enough, I’ve learned from all of your mistakes. It’s all in my DNA. I’m not going to repeat them.
[16:34] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[16:34] Paulette: You know, as far as like mental health concerns and things along that nature.
[16:38] And it’s so great to see. I look at teenagers today and I’m like, I wish that 30 years ago I had your resolve. I had your guts. Even if you’re wrong, you’re standing up for yourself. And it, it’s amazing. It’s amazing. I have hope for the future. I do. And yes, there is a woman of color in the White House, but she’s a VP.
[16:59] Theresa: It’s like, ooh almost! Just not yet. It’s like, oh, you’re almost there.
[17:05] Paulette: Let me explain why I’m not impressed with the fact we have a woman of color in the VP office. It’s not Kamala herself per se. Whatever you might think about her personally, it’s awesome we finally have a woman in that role and a Black woman at that.
[17:20] So I’m glad that that glass ceiling is finally shattered. It’s a consolation prize, but it’s still a huge step forward in progress. And you know how I feel about celebrating that. So I was all for it too. She’s even childfree. Yes, she has stepchildren, but I’ll take it.
[17:36] But then this trailblazer of a woman also stood up in Guatemala in front of the entire international community, representing a country that has a plaque on the goddamn Statue of Liberty that reads, I’m gonna read it to you now.
[17:49] Give me your tired, you’re poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest- lost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
[18:05] And then she said while she was standing there in Guatemala, don’t come. For everyone to hear, especially Guatemalans and other Latin American immigrants. She said, don’t come.
[18:19] Now, you can believe she was being used as a prop or whatever, that the fact that a woman of color was delivering the message would soften the blow. But the fact of the matter remains, the US government created policies that destabilized these countries. Our own country is built on the back of immigrants, and they used a woman of color to tell other people, you are not welcome here.
[18:42] So, yay. We have a Black woman as VP. She’s our spare in case something happens to old Joe. It’s a ceremonial role most of the time. But she also agreed to become a traitor to our national morals, in a time when the pop cultural zeitgeist is absolutely losing its shit over the fact that we’re not having enough babies to feed the capitalist monster that runs this country.
[19:04] Oh, no. Our low birth rates are gonna decimate our population. You know what would help with that? Immigration. But no, we’d rather just force more people to have babies by taking away birth control pills and access to healthcare instead. Because pronatalism is a sick joke. So you’ll understand if I’m a little less than enthusiastic about our Vice President.
[19:24] So anyway, let’s talk more about Gen Z ,and how they’re using the internet, and the pros and cons of technology in creating community. Another thing we’re really big on here at La Vida Más Chévere. We’re gonna highlight some notable people of color in podcasting and other tech-adjacent spaces. So I’ll leave you links in the show notes for all of them, plus that poem I read you.
[19:45] Theresa: As you’re saying, I have the same relatives in the space, and I think their resolve comes from a community that they’ve actually built through technology, right? These social platforms, which is A, good and B, bad at the same time. Because there’s a lot of psychological effects. And even though they say, oh, I’m not affected by it, but they’re constantly on the platforms.
[20:10] Yes, they can feel empowered because they know so much about technology. But there’s also this construct of constantly validating their existence through something they’re holding in their hand. I think they’re coming out of it a little bit more, being more social into a community environment, and I think that’s where technology is good, where it can push you into that realm. But at the same time, it still has that negative effect of people putting false narratives again out there.
[20:41] And saying, oh, okay. And how do you decipher that?
[20:46] Paulette: Especially when you’re young and and new in the world, you know, you just don’t have the experience to be able to sift through what’s bullshit and what’s true.
[20:54] Theresa: I think that’s what separates us from them, is our experiences, because technology was not so apparent. We had the television. I mean, we’re going like old school here.
[21:05] Paulette: Gen X.
[21:06] Theresa: Yeah. But that’s, that’s where the evolution of all of this came from. Seriously, it’s not new. It’s just reformatted in a way that’s consumable to what is today. Which is the phone. But before it was the television giving you your information, plugging in. From there, it evolved into radio and television.
[21:31] Now, from there it’s like, okay, and then it became more evolved into academia, like how do we get more communication out there? And then it became universities were communicating through technology. And I mean, if anybody wants to understand where the internet was born, I mean, it really came from a lot of the government and sciences in academia, and here we are today.
[21:57] Talk about creatives and sci-fi back then. I’m just gonna say I love Star Trek now. And when you go to the old school Star Treks, they had the little flip phones and what are we doing now? And they’re talking on their watches and now we got the Apple Watch. It’s like all in your chisme.
[22:15] Paulette: Yes. When we were at that club in Vegas, my watch kept reminding me that I was gonna go deaf. I feel like Inspector Gadget with this thing on, but I love it.
[22:26] Theresa: Yes. It’s like, come on, we need some new MacGyvers out there. Come on.
[22:32] Paulette: I have hope that they’re coming and I have hope that they’re little brown girls.
[22:36] Theresa: Yes, brown and black girl, little girls, they’re coming. It’s already happening. We just don’t hear or see their stories.
[22:43] That’s that’s what this is for.
[22:45] Paulette: We need to go find them and we need to make sure that they feel supported.
[22:51] Theresa: Yeah, the whole community in general. You know, just to circle back to Podcast Movement in Vegas, I’m gonna give a shout out now to Patrick Hill who created Disctopia. That’s his streaming platform.
[23:03] He, he’s just a wonderful person and he is going against the grain. You know, he’s African American, he lives out in South Carolina. He has built this platform for creatives because he sees community in that way. I think he has his degree in computer science, but that’s how he turned it around. And when you see how many people of color actually are in this space with a technology platform, I think there’s only maybe two.
[23:30] And that’s Patrick with Disctopia and Squad Cast with Zach Moreno. You know, who has a podcasting recording platform, and that’s really amazing. So, I mean, brown and black men out there, they’re just as supported and they’re also building technology. So I just wanna, you know, say that the community in general as a whole is supported, but the Latinas are really, you know, we’re black and brown girls are being more brave and we need to see more of what our brothers are doing out there.
[24:01] Because that’s the pathway for us is building those platforms that they have created. There are women, I’m not saying there aren’t women, there’s Tribaja. Shannon Morales, who also has built a platform for hiring.
[24:16] She is Afro-Latina. She’s amazing. So I mean, there are people out there building technology platforms. We just don’t fucking hear their stories. But this is why I do what I do called Latinas from the Block to the Boardroom. Because it is centered around those narratives we don’t see, we don’t hear as much as they should be amplified.
[24:38] Instead, you see Tech Bros that are creating new water, fucking Liquid Death because they’re in cans and they get like, you know, $10 million in funding. And I’m like, oh, you’re saving the planet. Okay. I guess we’re just like, I don’t know what we’re doing.
[24:56] Paulette: Tell me how you really feel, Theresa!.
[24:59] Theresa: I went down a hole. Why? Because I was at South by Southwest and I saw that shit everywhere and I know the story. And here Latinas and Brown and Black folks were the least funded on shit that actually benefits our purpose in life. And I’m like, do we need another can of water called Liquid fucking Death? Oh my God, here’s $10 million. Go do it.
[25:26] Paulette: I’m laughing, not because it’s funny. I’m laughing because if I don’t, I will cry.
[25:30] Theresa: It’s true. I mean, this is the reality. Anyway, I was there. It was wonderful. Lots of Latino artists coming out. It’s a great conference and it’s super overwhelming, but it is amazing and I got a lot out of it. It’s amazing.
[25:46] It really is amazing.
[25:48] Paulette: I remember when it was just a tiny thing.
[25:50] Theresa: Yeah, it was just music.
[25:51] Paulette: A local music event. Exactly. And it’s in the last, what, 20 years, 30 years? It’s just blown up. It’s like a formidable multimedia conference.
[26:00] Theresa: Well, so the thing in Silicon Valley, right? I’ve been here for a long time and I was at Google, I was at Facebook and all the, you know, whatever.
[26:08] The thing they really emphasize, and I think this is why it’s so big now, and it’s true actually, is the creative aspect that is threaded into building technology. The creativeness of art or experience. And utility. So when you go to these campuses, they’re beautiful. They really wanna inspire creativity for building.
[26:33] And it’s like our culture’s had that before. We do have it today. And yet we’re still trying to get to the next platform of how we can incorporate our culture into that. And so that’s why it benefits that whole environment down there. And it is a McKinsey report, which says if you add diversity to your product teams, to your C-suite, all this stuff, your revenues are going to increase.
[27:03] But I guess I feel that, and this is arrogant, that they’re so far ahead in the build that no one can catch up to them that we don’t need those people anymore. We just don’t need them. And I feel like right now is a absolute big opportunity for anybody interested in building something in that arena. If you were laid off or whatever it is to just go out there and just at least try.
[27:29] At least try because you have all that with you. I mean, when I was there I was really tripping out like, wow, look at this place. I wanna fucking steal all the chairs and put ’em in my house. This chair is like $5,000. I want it. I’m sorry, I just went to my block, you know mentality like, I’m gonna take this chair when I leave.
[27:49] Paulette: That’s great that the duality can live in all of us.
[27:53] We’re gonna jump into talking about Theresa’s upbringing. I’ll let you know now that it’s not all rainbows and sunflowers. I told you already, she’s a survivor and this is an emotional episode. Theresa is a third generation descendant of Mexican immigrants, so you’ll hear her call herself a chicana.
[28:09] Growing up in a post-Vietnam war family, entrenched in the traditional gender and cultural norms had a big impact, not only on her childhood, one that was fraught with the need to assimilate. But on what she wanted for her future and the future of the fourth generation of her family. Here, she’s gonna refer to a book, a documentary, and one of her own episodes, all of which I’ll link in the show notes.
[28:32] Theresa: Well, I grew up in Fresno in the Central Valley, and I mostly lived on the west side growing up because we lived with my grandmother back then. It was a middle class neighborhood when I was little, little, little. And then as all these neighborhoods happen and the middle class shrinking, it’s mostly Latino and African American, but it’s, it’s become a really hard place. But there’s gems there that have evolved.
[28:59] We moved around a lot. You know, I was looking back at, I found a file on myself and I went to like seven schools before fourth grade.
[29:07] Paulette: Wow.
[29:09] Theresa: I don’t know if that’s helped or not. It was tough. It was tough back then.
[29:12] Paulette: Let’s talk about your family. Tell me how that evolved.
[29:15] Theresa: I say I’m an old dog, you know Chicana-saurus here, but—
[29:19] Paulette: Chicana-saurus.
[29:20] Theresa: Chicana-saurus, you know, old, old dog. My parents were of that, the cultural norm, and this is Fresno, small town. You find your high school sweetie, back in the day and you get married. Because are you going to college? No, you’re gonna work. You’re gonna work.
[29:38] The families worked. There was a lot of dysfunction on both sides of my dad and my mom’s side, but they had a plan. And my dad’s plan was because Latinos, and there’s a great historical book on Chicanos about, you know, the military, how that’s always been kind of an option for Mexican Americans because of the lack of college education funding.
[30:00] That, you know, it’s not a resource for them to pursue. It’s like, well, if you go to the military, which is still prevalent today, you’ll get money. You’ll get funding for education and a house, and you’ll get all these things. But you have to make it out of the military if there’s no war. So. There’s that, and it was during the Vietnam Era, and as we know, that was the height of the civil rights movement. This is another time period.
[30:27] We’re at that kind of crossroads again, where this is happening. And it’s all based around cultural upheaval and that affects families, a lot of us. So that’s part of where my family, my mom and dad separated. My mom was not college bound. She was a single mom. She had no skills after high school.
[30:49] She had two kids and she divorced my dad because it just wasn’t working out. I mean, how can it work out when you come back from Vietnam, when you went at the age of 19? I just wanna put that in people’s heads: when they say you’re gonna have a better life if you go into the military or you get drafted.
[31:08] My dad didn’t even have a choice really. It was jail or go to the military. And that was how it was for most people of color back then. So just like marinate on that for a second. And that’s why Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali, he said, fuck that. I’m not gonna go over there. I’m gonna stay right here. And he went to jail and they stripped his title.
[31:31] That is the most amazing documentary I’ve ever seen. And it is sad. And so that’s the life my parents lived in, and that is traumatizing when families don’t stay together and how you have to pursue that. So this is part of the journey. My mom struggled with two children, no experience in skills she had to get. And we lived with my grandmother. And then we moved around a lot.
[31:55] So that’s kind of the, I wanna say the early side. But I learned how to adapt. And you know, assimilation was always a big part of that journey. Because my mom always said we spoke English. And so here we go into like you’re either accepted as Latina, speaking Spanish in your community, which we didn’t. And there’s reasons for that.
[32:18] My grandmother was punished for speaking Spanish. And then my mom didn’t speak Spanish. And then when we went to schools where we were seen as Latinas in a mostly white school, we were name called, derogatory names of wet backs, dirty Mexicans. So I mean, just think about all of that growing up and it’s like I couldn’t go to social media and find a community.
[32:42] I couldn’t go and find friends. You just have to like survive. And that’s what you do. And that kind of builds a little grit, I think. And understanding that whole narrative, it’s still really prevalent, unfortunately, in the Central Valley. And that’s why I did that last podcast because they still talk about it and it’s, it’s hard.
[33:04] It’s like a story that never dies. And that’s why they’re changing that. That’s why I do what I do as well, because that has to change. It’s too much. But people don’t wanna believe wars can happen again. The draft is no longer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go to war and it’s not gonna affect us. We really have to tune into the political climate too.
[33:26] I’m not gonna go down that route. But we can get lost in the social streams a lot because of what’s happening, but we do have to kind of tune in a little bit.
[33:36] Paulette: On that point, and thank you for sharing that because the full color of your background as a little girl growing up, it just adds so much to my admiration for you. That’s a lot.
[33:47] Theresa: Yeah.
[33:48] Paulette: And then somehow, despite all of these obstacles, you still ended up a Latina in tech.
[33:55] Theresa: Yeah, I, I always feel that, that hard part, being small, you know, when I talk about the story of adaptability and just. That is the mechanism of being in tech as well. And I didn’t just wanna survive, which I felt like now everybody talks about microaggressions and everything that’s happening in tech and back then we weren’t talking about it really.
[34:24] It was just starting to bubble up and it’s like, yeah, this is something I’ve experienced my whole time here in this environment. The community today has a platform to say what they wanted to, but growing up it’s like you didn’t talk about it. And that’s the narrative. It’s like a secret, like you should be thankful for what you have.
[34:44] Don’t complain, blah, blah, blah. Just get through it. And it’s like that’s a lot to hold inside. Now it’s like everybody is expressive and I think it’s great. It’s like a valve. I mean, I find myself still moving through the motions and when I get passionate about what I say, especially about AI, and when you hear me talking about these things, it comes from that bullshit of like, I’m tired. I’m tired of this.
[35:14] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[35:14] Theresa: And that’s why I do it.
[35:17] Paulette: We took a break from recording here because the emotions all of this brought to the surface bubbled up and they were a bit overwhelming. Theresa spoke earlier about the ERGs and how everyone was doing this work together as unpaid labor after so many generations of being told to just appreciate what you have and putting up with so much BS in corporate America just to be allowed in the room.
[35:40] So, of course that’s a lot. I’m gonna link you to a TikTok I saw on the very same thing, but Gen Z’s not letting corporate get away with it anymore. I’m telling you, I hope Gen Z saves us all. But Theresa is ever the professional. So after a very quick break, she jumped right back in there where she left off.
[35:59] Theresa: I just feel like we didn’t have the space. You’re creating space. We’re giving these spaces because it is, it’s time. It’s it’s time to stop. And that’s where technology has enabled us and that’s why all these stories are coming out now. It’s maddening when you think about all that information. And so it’s like, how do you digest it? It really just comes down to, you know, little bits and pieces.
[36:22] Don’t get me wrong, I love my journey. It’s part of who I am today, but it was rough and the assimilation process into tech. And there’s a whole podcast I think about called Code Switch. And it really does talk about how people of color, it’s like to be accepted, there are things that we have to do, just like when I was that little girl, to fit in so that we’re accepted.
[36:45] And we have to deny that authenticity of who we are. Right? A good friend Denise Soler, she does a podcast and she’s a first gen Puerto Rican, and she talks about the belonging aspect. It’s like we’re not accepted by our community here, and then we’re not accepted by society there, so we’re kind of stuck and lost in the middle.
[37:06] And how we navigate that sometimes is very challenging.
[37:10] Paulette: And then here’s where me and my platform come in. On top of all of that, then there’s a subsection of us who decide not to have children. So we’re already fighting the battle of assimilation or non assimilation, just being accepted and then against the societal norm of having children.
[37:29] I love that. I found you and I didn’t even know you were childfree. Like one day, you just told me this as you were telling me about your chickens.
[37:37] Theresa: Those are my children. I have feathered children.
[37:39] Paulette: You have feathered children.
[37:41] Now it’s time to dive into Theresa’s childfree story, which is not like most of the people I’ve featured on this podcast. Most of us have all been pretty clearly childfree and content with that choice. But I do have one other guest who actively tried having children before accepting they would not, and I’ll leave you a link to Julie’s story in the show notes. Theresa and her husband lived through this too and had the hard conversation and made the hard decisions.
[38:05] I love what she has to say about unity and broken spaces. But what I really want you to zoom in on is that it’s a story of access to planning, as she puts it, in her younger years. What we’re talking about is access to birth control options like the pill, condoms. How having those options and avoiding teen pregnancy was fundamental to her growing up and becoming the successful Latina she is now.
[38:32] And also how our current political climate is attempting to take all of that away from people. It’s fucking scary, but I’ll let her tell you about it. And I’ll leave a link to the Texas bill as it stands when we recorded this in April of 2023.
[38:47] Theresa: You know, being childfree in a Latino culture, people really question you. The majority, like why is that? Right? And early on when I was talking about how my mom was single with two kids and she had no skills, I mean, that was really hard and I think that was like a very impressionable time for me. You know, my, I saw my mom struggling. We were struggling, and her opportunities were to find a man for economic stability.
[39:18] And then what did that mean? You know, her possibly having more children because that’s like what we’re taught, you know, with toys and the society and or just to have kids. It’s the first thing we’re always asked, when are you gonna have kids? When are you gonna get married?
[39:33] So I had some rough relationships in high school. And thank God, and I’m just gonna put this out there: having access to planning your future with children early on, because I was not in the best relationships, if the, that was not accessible to me, I don’t know what my life would be like. Having the, the, the choice and the accessibility to plan that would’ve, you know, I don’t know. That would’ve really put me into another cycle of my family growing up in poverty.
[40:08] And that is what having access to healthcare planning is really about in this discussion that’s happening. Very apparent today, extremely important in other states, there are people banning access to pills and that want to trace your credit card information if you are going to try to do that. That’s a bill that Texas is trying to pass. Now it’s bullshit! Anyway, now that I got married now and I said I wanna have children because I was planning, my body was not accessible for that.
[40:43] And so that’s what happened. It was not by choice. And we went through the motions and I said, there’s a, a plan here that the universe has me on with my husband. And it’s not because I, you know, people will say, oh, you’re punished. You’re being punished because of early whatever it is with the religious aspect that comes in.
[41:07] People wanna throw that religious narrative in there and they don’t even know, even understand how it came to be in putting women in a very disadvantage and patriarchal underpin of being subservient. So that is something that I have always been critical of. My husband is very open to like whatever plan we had, and it just became, we tried, we spent a lot of money and we said, is this really for us? In our retirement age?
[41:40] Why do people want to have families? It’s legacy, but you also have to have means, right? And we just said, we have done so much, and my husband works in education. That we said, if this doesn’t happen, which is a real conversation, is this going to be a part of what you really want versus what I really want and maybe we shouldn’t be together?
[42:06] And he was very clear and said, I want this unity of us to be together, which is very profound to me, coming from broken spaces. And so the child aspect was, how can I give now when I’m barely giving to myself?
[42:26] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[42:27] Theresa: And that’s where I talk about the self-sacrificing that is always upon women versus men.
[42:33] And I think I’ve talked through that thread of the self-sacrifice of women, of how we are supposed to make that sacrifice. And how do we express and live in joy? And based on my narrative, I want to live in joy. I want to live in giving purpose to myself and to community.
[42:56] And I feel like that was what the powers that be said, that’s where you start and you have other nieces and nephews to give to, to see that journey. And then they start the new cycle of love and breaking the poverty cycle. Which they are, by the way. They’ve all graduated from college. They’re just doing really well and they’re reclaiming their Spanish language, you know?
[43:22] So, I mean, there’s a lot to be said there. So for me, it just decided to be a choice after the struggle of like, why? Why is that? And it’s purposeful for joy for me, and that’s not being selfish. That’s just breaking a generational cycle of poverty and bringing more love as a person into this world. That doesn’t take any money at all.
[43:48] So, I mean, that’s the, the long and short of it there.
[43:52] Paulette: Thank you for that. I’ve had another guest who also wanted children and it just wasn’t gonna happen for them. And she’s also living her best life just like you are, La Vida Más Chévere.
[44:04] Theresa: Mm-hmm.
[44:04] Paulette: So it’s not the same for all of us.
[44:07] Theresa: No.
[44:08] Paulette: Some of us come to be childfree, not by choice, but by circumstance and can still make the best of it. Can still put out love into this world and leave a legacy.
[44:18] Theresa: Absolutely. This is a legacy Paulette, you and I right here talking, creating these platforms, sharing our experience, and giving hope to another generation or older generations that maybe just feel like I am not heard or I don’t know other women like me.
[44:38] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[44:38] Theresa: This is that, that we’re able to do.
[44:41] Paulette: Yeah.
[44:42] Theresa: And other women have the platform and they’re moms and they do the same thing, and they talk about motherhood. That’s great. We’re the otherhood. That’s what I say. We’re the otherhood. And I’m grateful. I know that not having children has been a blessing for me because of just everything. I, I mean, I wanna kiss the feet of mothers that survived through covid with their children and their families.
[45:08] I mean, that takes an incredible amount of strength. And that’s why I get fired up also about the inequity of pay.
[45:17] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[45:17] Theresa: For, you know, Latinas especially, because usually they live in multi-generational homes. I’m a third generation, so there, there’s that piece. And then there’s also women that are first gens that are like, if I have children today, Is that gonna affect everything that I do?
[45:37] Y you know, we’re giving them that space to think about how to plan their families. I think without saying what the Catholic, you know, message wants to say to them otherwise. But it’s like you have free will and there is choice and we have to, we have to keep that choice available for everybody, all women and folks that want to have children.
[46:01] It’s really important.
[46:03] Paulette: Hundred hundred percent agree with you. We’re the other hood.
[46:05] Theresa: We’re the other hood, yeah.
[46:07] Paulette: Otherhood is also available and it’s great.
[46:10] Theresa: You should celebrate yourself. I mean, yeah, we travel because we have the means and we work. But you know, my husband works in education and he gets summer off, but we’re able to travel. And seeing another world, and their perspective, other cultures, which are centuries older than the United States, really brings a lot into perspective of this country.
[46:37] Paulette: We should do a, a separate episode on that.
[46:40] Theresa: Yeah. Oh, that was just a mic drop. For another episode. Right?
[46:43] Paulette: There you go. I love it. Theresa, thank you so much for everything you’ve shared today. I feel honored that you would share this story with me on this podcast. Definitely everybody listening should go listen to latinas b2b.com. That is the, the website where you can find Latinas from the Block to the Boardroom. Theresa is amazing. I’ll have all of your info in the show notes so people can find you.
[47:04] Of course. And if you wouldn’t mind wrapping up this episode for us.
[47:09] Theresa: Yes. So in the words of my dad about don’t be messy out there, cuz I’ve rebuilt that relationship with him. He’s always saying, you know, keep your tortilla tight. And so with that, that’s a burrito.
[47:23] Paulette: Got something to say about this week’s episode? Feel free to DM me on Instagram, TikTok, or even Twitter. My info is always in the show notes. And if you’re looking to be a guest in the future for La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at PauletteErato.com. That’s PauletteErato.com.
[47:42] And hey, muchísimas gracias for listening to this episode of La Vida Más Chévere. Are you subscribe or following on your favorite podcast app? If not, now would be a great time to do that. New episodes come out again every other Tuesday. I’m on Apple, I’m on Spotify. Wherever you listen.
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[48:07] I really appreciate it if you could rate and or review it wherever you’re listening to it right now. Hasta el próximo martes. ¡Cuídate bien!