Meet Lorena Soriano, The Latina Tech Founder Who Fights for Inclusiveness
Many heard the name Lorena Soriano for the first time when Forbes announced its 30 Under 30 Trailblazers, and she was one of the few Latino Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) specialists on the list.
Since becoming a business graduate at the College of Southern Nevada, Soriano knew that things don’t change unless you take the first step.
She started at Wells Fargo, a Fortune 30 Company, whom she phoned to let them know she had applied for the position and wanted to schedule the interview.
“I decided it was up to me to make my own path and success,” and she’s done that ever since.
After rising quickly in her position and realizing unethical habits in her workspace, she decided to change his approach.
Lorena decided to follow her childhood dream of being a woman in STEM. She used her savings and dedicated herself full time to her studies, often facing impostor syndrome and the pressure of realizing that she was the only woman or woman of color in her classes.
“I felt like I didn’t belong and thought about quitting many times,” she recalls in her Own Trail.
“I was born in Mexico,” Soriano told the South Seattle Emerald. “But I pretty much grew up in Las Vegas. I wanted to be a scientist and a doctor. The doctors on TV, they’re always the people that are helping other people, making the boo-boos go away and fixing them. And the scientists, they’re really just making really cool stuff — all the things [that] explode. However, growing up, I never saw a Latina doctor, even though in Las Vegas, we are very diverse. And the closest thing that I had to a scientist was Bill Nye, the Science Guy. So I didn’t have that representation. And I didn’t really think that that’s something that I could accomplish. So I did end up going the traditional business route.”
“I think the one thing I wanted to change [as a kid] is the way that the world saw me,” Soriano said. “We were immigrants … just by people seeing our name or knowing that I didn’t speak English, they already assumed where I was from, and they put me into a box.”
That’s when she decided to share her story online through the @girlchangetheworld initiative and gradually created a community of women at STEM, where they shared their struggles and successes.
But realizing that she did not want to be a scientist or a doctor, she decided to combine her two passions, STEM and business, to encourage women’s inclusion in the industry.
After graduating, getting married, and moving to Seattle, Solano admits to having “accidentally” started Global Girls Give, a nonprofit with a diverse team of 25 people from 10 different time zones, which opened the doors to the Forbes Fellow program and would definitely transform her into an entrepreneur.
Several stumbling blocks and training later, she finally created Every Point One, an initiative that seeks to change the statistics and make sure that the people who design and create STEM products are representative of the population.
As she explained to South Seattle Emerald, for Soriano, it’s the little things that matter most: the racial and gender diversity of the photos on the company’s website, the AI products designed for a variety of accents, and the feel of a room on a new employee’s first day.
“At every POINT ONE, we are known for our tagline… ‘every 0.1% matter when you’re changing the stats in STEM to ensure we have an inclusive future,’” Soriano told the media.
“What we have seen in companies is that maybe one department out of the three that we focus on, they’re totally rocking,” she added. “And they’re living, breathing, eating these values on a day-to-day basis. Personally, I have never seen a whole entire organization that has this. Maybe the executives do, but the rest of the company doesn’t feel that way.”
This inconsistency drives out the various hires. People join the company because they believe in their values. But after a few months, they realize that the stated values are not an essential part of the company’s identity. In a tough economy, women of color may feel pressured to stay on the job, but as soon as a better opportunity presents itself, they jump ship. Low retention is costly. To replace a worker, employers spend an average of $30,000. Soriano says that’s not the only cost.
“We are tight-knit communities,” Soriano said. “If you leave [a job], you’re going to talk, and you’re going to share your experiences, especially in the world that we live in right now, where we’re all online, we’re all on social media. Now we’re not afraid to call these companies out. Now people are actually saying, ‘Nope, this is what my manager did. This is what happened.’ You’re now the company that people don’t want to go ahead and work at. And it’s going to cost you so much more money.”
Soriano, who spent six years working for Fortune 500 companies, wants to save businesses the money (and embarrassment) of failing to live up to their values. And she has an interesting solution: “values police.”
“They [values police] are the ones that are checking those values,” Soriano said. “That within this team, within this project, whatever it is — from the janitorial department all the way to the executive — that the values are being practiced and implemented. That is the number one thing.”
With information from the South Seattle Emerald.