The world is changing fast and technology has opened up a whole new way of doing and starting a business. One of the tremendous emerging trends is a pathway for underrepresented people to have their voices heard and deliver value in a more inclusive marketplace. Walls are falling and the rules are finally starting to change. One of the people facilitating this change is the fabulous Lolita Taub. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know her, hearing her story and digging into what drives her to do the work she does.
Lolita’s current role is chief of staff at Catalyte, a software engineering services company that uses artificial intelligence to identify individuals, regardless of background, who have the innate potential and cognitive ability to be great software developers. She is a visionary leader who is looking at the next generation of technology, and technology creators, and making sure it doesn’t carry the bias that made her and so many others’ journeys so difficult. As business gets more digital, the unfair bias that excludes so many doesn’t need to and shouldn’t carry over into our digital future. Lolita wants to ensure an inclusive future for everyone.
Diversity from Adversity
As the world evolves it should impart the best humanity has to offer. Lolita came from a childhood of adversity, forcing her to step into a provider role for her family at an early age. As she drove to succeed in the corporate world, she realized the environment was not a level playing field for everyone. Though she was strong enough to push on and succeed despite the system working against her, it seemed unfair that someone who starts in adversity should face more of it when trying to rise above it.
Pressure makes diamonds. One thing I have found in life is adversity does one of two things to a person: it either crushes them, or they rise above it and become a light to many others. Lolita is a perfect example of a diamond formed by adversity.
With increased awareness and desire for diversity in modern organizations, it’s important to understand the immense value and responsibility that resides in creating diversity. Often the people who have the least advantages to start have been through the most. In an ever-challenging future, organizations and every facet of society need resilient people who can thrive in tough environments, who can beat the odds and come out on top. The underrepresented minorities of yesterday are the untapped stars of tomorrow. When we include everyone, it isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
They Are Me
For every successful underdog story, there are many more that didn’t make it. We often celebrate the people who, against the odds, rise above. Most of the people I have met like this don’t stop at their own personal success. From a young age, Lolita didn’t just work for herself, she worked for her family. When I look at all of the amazing things she has accomplished you can see that much of her work also provides pathways for others. This includes helping underrepresented people get jobs by removing bias in the hiring process, and being a role model for women, Latinos or anyone who wants an equal shot at success.
We never succeed alone. No matter how hard the road to success, we need allies and supporters. For people like Lolita, there was less support. But she is now able to give others the support she never had. The real underdog story isn’t just about overcoming the odds to succeed, it’s about becoming the story that inspires others. For those who are doing the inspiring, there comes a realization that the people they inspire are just like them. There is a connection and a common story. This is why role models are so important.
Have a role model, be a role model. Lolita told me, when she was young, that Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons was her role model. “She could do anything,” she told me. Imagine how powerful that fictional character was in this young girl’s life, a girl who would grow up to be a role model for women in tech. At the time, the tech scene as we know it didn’t really exist. I doubt that the creators of The Jetsons created Rosie as a “Latina-in-tech” role model, but underrepresented dreamers like Lolita found inspiration even though there was none. Now Lolita is giving girls like her and many others a real role model, creating paths and environments for others to get opportunities and proving that they can do anything.
What Can I Do
In a blog she recently wrote, looking back at her path and looking forward to the new decade, she kept asking herself, “What can I do to change things?” She made the commitment that aside from the work she was doing to help the underrepresented succeed, she would take the speaking fees she made and invest them in underrepresented people and startups. I have to say, at that point in our conversation I had to interrupt her and tell her that she was awesome!
It’s easy to get so focused on our own struggles and goals that we forget to turn around and help others achieve theirs as well. Lolita is putting her money where her mouth is and setting the example for everyone. She is reinvesting and doubling down on the value, potential and need for underrepresented people to have an equal voice and opportunity in society. She is in fact, investing in her own story through investing in the story of others.
Create change until it’s no longer needed. Minorities helping each other is a start. But the real change will happen when people who are in the majority start investing in the underrepresented. This is happening slowly now thanks to people like Lolita and others, but there is still a lot more work to be done. You can help by booking her to talk about diversity in tech, the future of work, venture capital and artificial intelligence at your next event.