Lift Every Voice – National Hispanic Heritage Month

From Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, the U.S. observes National Hispanic Heritage Month, while in October, Canada celebrates Latin American Heritage Month. We honor the cultures, accomplishments, and contributions of Latino and Hispanic people rooted in all Latin American and Spanish-speaking lands. We celebrate their varied histories and the many advancements they have made to STEM fields, the arts, and society.

1. With the increasing demand for scientists and engineers, why is it important for individuals from underrepresented groups to explore careers in STEM?

Paul-Baptiste Baca, Graphic Design Specialist

Diversity and inclusion lead to improved creativity and innovation, a concept that is supported by research that demonstrates that a diverse team is able to outperform a homogeneous team, even if that homogenous team is made up of high-ability problem solvers. People from diverse backgrounds with diverse experiences approach problems differently, and as a result, may devise more creative and groundbreaking solutions. A lack of diversity in STEM implies that both significant talent and new ideas are being left out of the process of innovation.

Catalina Echeverri, TOPS Area Manager

The most important reason to have underrepresented groups in STEM is because what we do [at Gannett Fleming] is going to change the communities that we live in. It’s important for our team to represent the community. In other words, we need to have a diverse workforce, and a diverse workforce starts by having people of different backgrounds collaborating on projects that will affect the quality of life for those that we serve.

Annie Godoy, Lead Proposal Coordinator

Groups of people with diverse experiences and areas of expertise tend to be more creative and innovative. Asking questions drives science forward, and scientists and engineers with different perspectives often ask different questions.

2. Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives important to you as a Gannett Fleming employee?

Paul-Baptiste Baca, Graphic Design Specialist

Although diversity is often viewed as a human resources initiative with a focus on race and gender, the role of diversity within our company is much broader. An understanding and acceptance of diversity allows all individuals within Gannett Fleming to contribute fully to the success of our company by creating a safe working environment where employees are able to express ideas and solutions freely.

Integrating diversity not only helps the human culture of Gannett Fleming, but it expands our flexibility and competitiveness to address the challenges brought to us by our clients and gives us an edge at being more innovative and creative in our solutions. As a member of the Gannett Fleming family, I think it strengthens us and makes us a better, more competitive company while making our home – this company – a happy place to be.

Catalina Echeverri, TOPS Area Manager

They’re important to me because they make me feel welcome. I love collaborating with people from different backgrounds because the concepts that we come up with when we work with people that are not like us are a lot more interesting than if we just get together and all agree on the same concept. I’ve had amazing experiences by collaborating with people from different groups in different regions.

Annie Godoy, Lead Proposal Coordinator

Put simply, because I feel I deserve better, and an employer who can provide a more well-rounded, inclusive culture is essential in improving employee engagement.

3. Which iconic Latino/Hispanic figure do you most admire for their contributions to the arts, sciences, or society as a whole and why?

Paul-Baptiste Baca, Graphic Design Specialist

Although perhaps not iconic, the Hispanic person I most admire for his contributions to society as a whole is my father, Elfego George Baca Jr. He spent his entire life in the service of people, lifting them up and creating spaces where they could achieve their full potential. My father was a teacher, director of Catholic Social Services, a social worker for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, director of the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic and Latino civil rights organization in the United States, and an early childhood educator.

He put all he was into making others great, and not just Hispanics, but everyone. He taught me that people are not the labels we place on them, but they are valuable for their uniqueness and deserve kindness, justice, fairness, and loyalty. His values of inclusion and non-judgment helped shape me.

For my dad: you were kind and loving and fair to everyone, even when there was no one there to see it.

Catalina Echeverri, TOPS Area Manager

I would say my favorite Latino/Hispanic figure is Gabriel García Márquez. He’s my favorite writer. He won the Nobel Prize in 1982, he was Colombian, and he wrote two of my favorite books, Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. If you haven’t read any of his books, he writes in a style that’s called magic realism, and what happens is that he talks about daily, ordinary situations but in a magical way.

Annie Godoy, Lead Proposal Coordinator

Cesar Chavez. In the 1970s, he was a civil rights activist fighting for the rights of many farmworkers, from Southern California to Central California and even out to Arizona. A lot of these [farm] owners took advantage of the fact that many of their farmworkers were illiterate, there was a language barrier, and they knew that their employees were too afraid to speak about their wages, their living conditions, and any rights they had as employees.