“I often say that to know a Latino or Latina, you have to ask them their story,” says Lucia Galezewski, president of the Latinx Professional Network (LPN) employee resource group (ERG) at Rockwell Automation.
The Latino voice and culture are rich with diversity and storytelling, Lucia says – and an ERG like LPN showcases that.
“We're inclusive – mi casa es su casa (my house is your house) basically summarizes our culture. It’s extremely inviting. Our stories of immigration, resilience, and destiny, they talk about that attitude that we carry in our hearts,” she says.
Lucia is an immigrant, born and raised in Quito, Ecuador. At age 17, Lucia’s mother accumulated enough money to send her to Milwaukee to learn English at her aunt’s house. Lucia is proud she got on a plane with $120 and not a word of English. She stayed in Milwaukee to graduate from college. In the following years, she experienced life as a Latina in the US, which is quite different from being a Latina in Latin America.
“Here, you are underrepresented in a lot of spaces,” she says.
Lucia is a Finance Manager and Partner on the Lifecycle Services team. She has over 18 years of experience in finance and leadership. She brings a visionary lens and a passion to lead others to succeed.
She joined LPN in 2016, where she has felt a family-like empowerment and support. In 2018, Lucia received the Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers Award (YHCA) through the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility. This award allowed her to strengthen her leadership with a cultural fortitude to create further ladders for our underrepresented populations.
“I realized that if we don’t do something, right now, in 20 years, there will be another Latina or Black woman facing similar challenges, including my children,” Lucia says.
In LPN, she has held several roles: as VP of Outreach, executive board advisor, and (current) President. LPN works and partners with the African American Professional Network, another ERG, in many strategies and projects to advance Rockwell’s Black and Latinx talent, and the intersectionality the two cultures share.
“The Latinx community is diverse. We represent diversity. The way we look, how we got to the United States - we are not a homogeneous group, so for us to have a conversation about diversity and inclusion, we have to understand the experiences that the Latinx professional brings into an organization.”
Jesus Gonzalez, general counsel for North America and Global Market Access and LPN member, was born in Monterrey, Mexico. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Des Moines, Iowa.
“We were living in a part of the country that is not very diverse. I was told, ‘You don’t look or act Mexican,’ a statement that we originally did not totally understand and became a thought-provoking conversation in our household. In light of that, my parents told us we were ambassadors, and that the way we conducted ourselves would shift paradigms on how Latinos are perceived,” Jesus says.
Jesus moved back to Mexico and was later hired at Rockwell Automation as the lawyer for Latin America. Eight years ago, Jesus seized an opportunity to return to the U.S. – encouraged and sponsored by a mentor who took a chance on hiring a diverse, young talent – when he accepted a role supporting the Architecture and Software segment of the business.
“I’ve been very lucky to have had multiple mentors and be a part of an OGC organization committed to diversity,” Jesus says. “And it was deja vu for me, with this time me moving my family to Cleveland and being the one telling my wife and kids that we had to be ambassadors. My kids have grown up in the U.S. – my daughter was born in Cleveland – so they are as American as anyone. And I hope that as they grow up, they do not feel that people see them differently.”
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
LPN has a focused mission to attract, retain and develop Latinx talent at Rockwell Automation. From welcoming new employees to executing strategic programming around elevating Latinx talent, this group’s focus is on empowering Latinx Leadership by centering in Latinx cultural-based principles and family-like relationships.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized annually from September 15 through October 15. This year’s LPN theme is “Deja tu Huella” or “Leave Your Mark.”
According to Lucia, Hispanic Heritage Month is about celebrating the contributions and the history of the Latino in the United States and is a time to “reflect on our legacy, our time and our destiny.”
“We want to talk about our legacy, our time and our future, for people who have been here before us, and are in positions of influence. We want to focus on our time, because this is our time. Also, focusing on elevating the future generations of Latinx talent, including early career professionals, high schoolers and younger children.”
Not Your Typical ERG
LPN seems like a “typical” ERG in many respects – it meets regularly, brings together employees that have a commonality, and stays true to its mission.
There are ways that LPN is unique as well, Lucia says. People may assume a Latinx group gets together to talk about their favorite restaurants and have Salsa dance contests – but the reality is, it’s a way for employees to nourish and support each other through what’s going on in the world and in their communities.
“Sometimes we have to deal with very heavy stuff,” she says. “The experience is slightly different for an African American and Latinx professional. For example, being a Black Latino on a Monday morning when there was a shooting nearby the night before or being a Latina whose father just got detained by ICE and has to show up to work the next day. People don’t know the conversations we have to have.”
The events and traumas that impact the Latinx communities may be acknowledged within a trusted circle but are often dealt with behind the scenes for employees whose managers and colleagues may not understand what they are going through. LPN provides that hidden value for members, Lucia says.
"We've cried over it. We've formed family-like relationships. There have been times when you just cry a little bit and get onto the next meeting or call,” Lucia says.
LPN’s strategy, and everything it does, is aligned to the Rockwell Automation strategic framework, Jesus says.
“In fact, there’s no better example of evolving company culture with employees who can and want to do their best work than someone showing up to work the day after they’ve gone through a harrowing personal experience – and putting on a brave and professional face to do their work,” he says. “It suggests immense professionalism, when, at great cost and great energy, they leave that behind when they walk in the door.”
An Economic Conversation
While cultural celebrations and personal stories are compelling, Jesus points to the evidence that differences and diversity make companies and communities stronger than those that aren’t.
“Diversity is one of the U.S.’s biggest strengths. And even within our country, you go to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many cities and regions – the more diverse a region or country is, the healthier its economy,” he says. “There is a correlation between diversity and economic prosperity that people shouldn't forget.”
Lucia agrees, pointing out that discussions about Latino and Latinas in the workplace have moved beyond a cultural conversation.
“It’s an economic conversation. Here in Milwaukee, Latinos are the fastest-growing population. Take the Hispanic students that are graduating from high schools and colleges – they get dropped off at the door of a corporation that isn’t built by them or for them, and we wonder why they may struggle,” she says. “How can professionals like us leave a legacy and a mark for not only ourselves but also the generations that are to come?”
By telling their stories and speaking up in their organizations and communities, Lucia says, Latinos and Latinas are helping to keep momentum for continued progress.