An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Increased employee retention and promotion of diverse talent.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy Ramos, J.D.
Tammy Ramos, J.D. is the Executive Director of LatinaVIDA, a nonprofit who partners with organizations to support DEI goals to equip the next generation of diverse leaders to rise to the top in their careers. Tammy is also a well sought after speaker who is known for her ability to connect, engage and inspire a broad range of audiences. Her passion is to empower women of color by building community and unity while celebrating diversity.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?
I am a first generation Latina in my family to not only graduate from college and law school, but I’m also the first to graduate from high school. I’m also the first non-teen mom. My mother was a 16 years old girl who had run away from home and came back pregnant with me. My father was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who left her out of fear he’d be deported. I often say that I grew up on the other side of the tracks into a life of poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect and great sadness. Today, I have the privilege to live on this side of the tracks. I’m eternally grateful for all those along the way in my journey to success who believed in me, inspired me, opened doors for me and basically — took a chance on me. I find myself in this career because my high calling has always been to make my life count for something — to do good in a broken world, and as the last sentence of my essay for law school admittance says, “… to be the voice, power and strength of the unheard, weak and helpless.”
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away, you took out of that story?
The funniest — I can’t think of anything, but the most interesting may be the fact that I went to law school with Amy Coney Barrett who now sits in the U.S. Supreme Court. Unlike Amy, I entered the legal profession with no privilege, connections, resources, etc. I entered a law firm of 35 attorneys — 33 were middle aged white men and one white woman; I was the only person of color. I did not feel like I belonged. I saw my diversity, my cultural identity, and my gender as liabilities. I did everything I could to assimilate, to fit, to belong. It was painful, lonely and exhausting. Back in 1996, we didn’t talk about DEI. Women of color like me were simply trying to survive in a world never created for us and often hostile to us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 As a girl born into poverty, abuse, addiction, neglect and great trauma, I came to know the Lord in an orphanage at the age of 11 years old. Through the deepest, darkest traumatic and painful moments, I would repeat, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Although I was helpless, I found comfort in knowing that there was someone else I could count on to give me strength.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The most important piece of advice I share often is that we need people along the way to support us in life and career. Some may be mentors, others sponsors, coaches, counselors, colleagues, friends, family, professors, bosses, allies, etc. What all these people have in common is — your best interest. They want to see you happy and successful. I have been blessed to have had many lifelong believers in Tammy Ramos. One story is of my foster mom, Mary Pena. She was the leader of the Mecha Club at my high school. She saw that I had no home, no family, no hope. So, she took me in and gave me a home, family and hope. She changed the course of my life and helped me to see that there was so much more I could do and become. She inspired me and helped me apply for college where I would meet Dr. Maria Hernandez who took a chance on me and gave me a seat in the High Potential Program at Saint Mary’s College. Dr. Hernandez has been a lifelong friend who has opened doors for me where I didn’t even know doors existed. These two women continue to build me up to continue to dream big dreams and see them come to fruition.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
LatinaVIDA was originally founded by my dearest and longest mentor of over 30 years, Dr. Maria Hernandez. While sitting around a kitchen table one day with the other two co-founders, Santalynda Marrero, EdD and Julia Arellano-Sullivan, MBA were reflecting on the challenges they faced as first-generation Latinas trying to navigate corporate America. They realized that many Latinas, who are first in their families to have advanced degrees and professional careers, often do not have the skills or knowledge to navigate their careers in a world dominated by white men. LatinaVIDA was birthed to empower and equip the next generation of Latinas to rise to the top in their careers. Today, LatinaVIDA has expanded its mission to partner with organizations who want to support all first generation professionals of color to advance in their careers.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Personally, I’m always working on exciting projects. Currently, I’m preparing myself to get on a corporate board, write a book on Latina leadership and do a TedTalk. Professionally, I’m working to broaden LatinaVIDA’s reach into Fortune 500 companies through the support of our developing Corporate Advisory Board. My goal is to see a minimum of 1,000 professionals of color to have gone through our PODER Leadership Academy by the end of 2023 with it resulting in their increased promotions, self-confidence, pay equity, sponsorship and joy in the work they do.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, at the young age of 21, I knew the calling on my life was to be “the voice, power and strength of the unheard, weak and helpless.” I am privileged to get to earn a living doing what I am passionate about which is creating inclusion and equity for women and people of color through my DEI work in coaching leaders on how to create cultures of inclusion and through my partnerships with organizations who invest in the leadership development of their diverse talent.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line.
- Increased employee engagement and productivity.
- Increased employee retention and promotion of diverse talent.
- Increased employee innovation and creativity.
- Increased employee morale.
- Increased profits for the organization.
Where there is diversity, there is greater innovation because there is a broader and deeper knowledge base to pull from. This leads to profitability and success for organizations and individuals. I will use an example of a time when an organization failed to do this. Chevy came out with the Nova back in the 1960s. They came to realize the reason they couldn’t sell it to the Hispanic community was because “no va” means “it doesn’t run.” This is a prime example of what happens when you have homogeneous voices at the table. Organizations who invite ALL voices to participate in the decision making process reap the rewards of the diversity of thought, lived experiences and knowledge which results in the bottom line success for the organization with all stakeholders — employees, customers, clients, vendors, suppliers, etc.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?
If the goal is to support employees’ success, organizations must recognize that employees are first human beings. As humans, we all have a deep need to belong and to believe our lives matter. Today we live in a much more diverse, complex and multifaceted world. The workplace is made up of a global, multigenerational, multiethnic, multilingual, multidimensional community which is beautifully rich in knowledge, culture and lived experiences. Organizations that invest in this diverse talent pool will be the ones who are able to successfully attract, retain and promote this talent and reap the benefits.
What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?
Lead with humility, curiosity and empathy and your teams will manage themselves.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Melinda Gates and Oprah because both women have a long history of demonstrating love, commitment and resources to underprivileged minority groups. I believe they both would value and be moved by my personal story and passion to inspire and empower the least of us — especially women of color who continue to face the greatest discrimination, bias, lack of access and equity. For those who stand on the side of justice, fairness and righteousness — will naturally see the need to support a nonprofit like LatinaVIDA who is changing and shaping the world for the next generation of diverse professionals.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.
Tammy Ramos Of LatinaVida On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.