As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month across the United States this September, as well as Mexico’s Independence Day today, Convoy’s Latinx community is also celebrating an important milestone: The Latinx@Convoy Employee Resource Group (ERG) was established one year ago, in Fall 2019, with the aim of building a vibrant Latinx community at Convoy. A year on, we look back at some of the group’s important contributions to advancing an inclusive and diverse culture at Convoy.
(For those unfamiliar with the term, Latinx is the gender-neutral form often used instead of Latino or Latina to refer to individuals with Latin American or Hispanic origins.)
Like many community groups, Latinx@Convoy started informally — with colleagues gathering over lunch for Spanish-language conversation. Co-workers would pass by, hear the conversation and join the table. Eventually, these informal conversations became a set monthly lunch with the occasional “celebrity” guest: During one of the groups’ early gatherings, Convoy CEO Dan Lewis joined to talk about his time as a college student studying abroad in Chile — he even displayed his language skills by conversing fluently with the group in Spanish. By mid-2019, several participants decided to formalize the group, following in the footsteps of established Convoy ERGs like Women@Convoy and Parents@Convoy.
With guidance from Women@Convoy leadership, several members of the Latinx community at Convoy got together to identity shared goals and eventually landed on three focus areas:
- Building a sense of community among Latinx employees that promotes connections and supports career growth;
- Raising awareness of issues important to the Latinx community more broadly across Convoy;
- Helping recruit Latinx candidates to open roles and help retain and develop them once they join.
The group identified a volunteer Leadership Council to help drive these goals forward, currently composed of nine individuals who take the lead on various initiatives. Like all ERGs at Convoy, they also have an executive sponsor who helps guide the team and bridges the group with company leadership.
Membership in the group today reflects the diversity of the Latinx experience in the United States in many ways. “We have recent immigrants and the children of immigrants among our members,” said Latinx@Convoy Co-Chair Adolfo Estrada Durán, a Senior Operations Specialist. “There are members who studied abroad or lived in Latin America and Americans married to Latinx immigrants; Afro-Latinx and Asian-Latinx members; members with roots in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean; members whose native language is Spanish or Portuguese, members who learned one of the languages as an adult, and members who don’t speak the languages at all.”
Building community and a sense of belonging
The most important starting point for the group was to start building connections among members, particularly those who sit on different teams and don’t necessarily work together on a daily basis. Early on, they organized potlucks where members brought some of their favorite foods to share and established a shared Slack channel to share their experiences.
It quickly became obvious that a critical role of the group was to provide a forum for members to talk about their experiences as Latinx people in the workplace and how identity has shaped their careers.
For example, Francisco Alvarez, a Senior Research Scientist shared his experience growing up as a Cuban American at a time and in a community where there were very few other Latinx people. “As a way to avoid drawing unwanted attention to myself and avoid bullying, I started going by ‘Frank’ or ‘Frankie’ instead of my birth name,” he said. “It wasn’t until I graduated with my Ph.D. that I felt like I could bring my true self to work and start using my actual name.”
Sergio Muñoz, an IT Service Desk Technician who grew up in Michigan, talked about similar struggles embracing his Hispanic identity in the workplace. “A lot of my life, I always felt like I needed to speak and act a certain way to receive the approval of my peers — who more often than not have been white.”
Both Francisco and Sergio agree that the Latinx@Convoy ERG has provided a welcoming environment where they can talk about their experiences with co-workers who have a special understanding of what they have gone through.
For the Latinx@Convoy ERG, it is important to not just support each other, but also raise awareness more broadly across Convoy about issues relevant to the Latinx community.
As the United States engaged in a broader societal conversation about racial injustice earlier this year, the Latinx@Convoy ERG had their own conversations about Latinx attitudes to what was going on. Some members talked about the Latinx community’s own experience with exclusion in the United States as well as the appreciation of many recent Latinx immigrants for the opportunities that the United States has offered.
The group was also conscious of the long history of exclusion toward Afro-Latinx people — in the United States and in Latin America. About one in every 10 Latinx people in the United States is Afro-Latinx, including members of the Convoy community. “As an Afro-Latina it’s nice to see non-Black Latinxs stand with the Black community,” Kristie Richards, an Operations Associate, wrote to the group. “The one thing that I ask is that we all continue to stand by Black people both in and outside of our community and do the work of unlearning our biases and countering anti-Blackness when we see it in action.”
More recently in August 2020, the Latinx@Convoy ERG invited Rep. Pramila Jayapal — who represents much of Seattle, including Convoy HQ, in the U.S. House of Representatives and who is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — to speak at Convoy in a virtual fireside chat, which I was honored to moderate as Convoy’s General Counsel. During the interview, Rep. Jayapal touched on themes such as immigrant rights, which the Latinx@Convoy ERG identified as an important issue.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created new challenges for all workplaces, and particularly for members of under-represented groups. It is easier than ever for coworkers to retreat into their personal work-from-home bubbles, but it’s also precisely the moment when a sense of community is critical to employees’ success and wellbeing. Some lessons that Latinx@Convoy has drawn from its first year include:
- It’s important for company leadership to be vocal in their support for ERG participation, making sure that front-line managers are empowered with the tools to recognize and value ERG members, including for junior and non-technical employees who might be more reluctant to participate in ERGs.
- Many ERG members, particularly early-career members, don’t necessarily know how to flag their ERG contributions to their direct managers or highlight and leverage that experience as a stepping stone in their career growth. ERG leaders should take an active role in publicly recognizing members’ contributions.
As we all celebrate Hispanic heritage this month, Latinx@Convoy is contributing to a more inclusive and diverse community at Convoy, all with the mission of building a more sustainable digital freight network. As ERG founding member Manuel Ocampo, concluded: “From farmworkers to astronauts and teachers to movie stars, Latinx Americans are proud to contribute to all areas of our society. I’m a proud Latino Software Engineer contributing to make our freight industry more efficient.”
If you are a Latinx-owned trucking company and would like to learn more about how you can start hauling with Convoy, or if you currently haul with Convoy and would like access to additional opportunities, please reach out to email@example.com or visit our supplier diversity page for more information.