Hispanic Heritage Month: The Importance of Inclusivity

by Alannah McDermott

Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords and campaigns. Although we continue to bring visibility to the discussion this year, we must ask ourselves―are we including everyone in this story? 

San José State is regionally known as the powerhouse of the Silicon Valley, an ecosystem built on diversity.  Our university is dedicated to continuing the legacy of Cesar Chavez through a commitment to social justice and activism in everything we do.  We are united by our differences―exposed to different ethnicities, religions, ideologies, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds on-campus. Diversity is not just a concept at SJSU, it’s the foundation of who we are—one of the reasons we’re ranked the 4th most transformative college in America

As communicators and creatives, our storytelling is at the forefront of creating discussions and movements around diversity and inclusion, often bringing attention to areas lacking in equity. 

In an industry that is so focused on people, we must strive to ensure all are included in our society and our teams―both in and out of the office. 

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, PRSSA SJSU board members offered insight into why diversity is uniquely important to them. 

“Different cultures and walks of life produce different takes on any given situation,” Joanna Acevedo, PRSSA’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said. “Therefore, it’s imperative to have diversity within an organization to grapple with the complex intersections existing in society.”

There are real issues affecting real people. To solve them, we have to tackle problems with our strongest defense: information. We must be problem solvers, examining the issue at hand at every possible angle. With this, we can offer different vantage points across cultures, ages, ethnicities and gender identities.  Our critical thinking is done best when we work together, not when we are looking at only one small section of the story.

“I once attended a workshop that specifically focused on Latinx community and mental health,Acevedo said, The accumulation of different experiences being Latinx struggling with mental illness allowed there to be a carefully thought out approach on how to best serve that group!” This is a practical example of a time where diversity of voice and thought helped solve the issue at hand, creatively identifying the problem.

Other ways we can stand in solidarity with diverse populations is by hiring and promoting more people of color, creating documents with accessibility features for the visually impaired and recognizing multiple gender identities and sexual orientations in surveys. 

While we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we need to bring attention to the beauty of this culture throughout the year. We can make the Latinx community feel valued and heard by actively partnering with them in their struggles and not dismissing real―and often unseen―issues. 

Chapter Treasurer Gabi Avella does this by leveraging public relations skills gained through our organization to advocate for Latinx issues. As part of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley’s Ella Class of 2019, she’s facilitated classes and launched projects to encourage and increase Latina representation in government. 

“Sometimes we don’t realize the barriers of getting into a group,” Avella said. “Finding the barriers and breaking them down is a good way to increase diversity in a group.”

Yasmin Abdi, Vice President of Professional Development, recalls an experience where diversity was paramount in her growth at SJSU. 

“In university housing my freshman year, I was paired with roommates who differed from me completely,” she said. “But, it made us appreciate one another more.” 

In 2015, McKinsey&Company’s Why Diversity Matters study illustrated that companies with gender and ethnic diversity were more likely to financially outperform those with a lack of diversity. This study shows that diverse executive boards are a smart investment, generating better returns and more money for organizations.

We can reap the social, cultural and economic benefits of diversity and inclusion when we consistently invest in communities that are often overlooked.

It’s more than meeting quotas―it’s about starting at the most basic level and beginning with the people we interact with daily. This includes the people in our classes, at our workplaces, at home―anywhere! 

At SJSU, PRSSA is dedicated to investing in our diverse community, offering professional opportunities, including agency tours, networking sessions, conferences, panels, socials and workshops. The panels we host throughout the semester include young, diverse professionals in a variety of industries who are ready to connect with members. Our organization works closely with our parent chapter PRSA Silicon Valley to bring multicultural communications executives from companies like Alaska Airlines, Juniper Networks, Zeno Group and IBM to the table with students directly. 

We are excited to continue growing our diverse community of students this semester. Whether you’re a future member ready to dive into professional development activities we have planned, or a fellow Spartan wanting to foster connections, we can’t wait to meet and get to know you!

Join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and let us know some practical ways you’re advancing diversity and inclusion in your communities. We want to partner with you. 🙂