Industry leaders speak on need for diversity in business world
On Thursday night, business-world leaders Nurys Camargo, Paul Francisco and Lynne Katzmann met for a large-group panel discussion, followed by a living-room style discussion in which attendees could converse with the speakers, as part of the fifth annual ’DEIS Impact celebration. During the event, “The Business Case for Social Impact,” the speakers emphasized the need for people of color and women in corporate America and in leadership roles like their own.
Business Undergraduate Representative and Eli J. Segal Fellow Gabby Zilkha ’16 facilitated the panel discussion that Camargo and Francisco participated in. Katzmann was unable to attend the panel discussion but joined the event later by video chat to take questions in the living-room style conversation.
Camargo is the Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T Massachusetts and Founder of Chica Project, which strives to “close the opportunity divide for Latinas by empowering them with the skills, confidence, and network necessary to thrive personally & professionally,” according to the event handout. In the past she has worked in the District Attorney’s Office in Miami and Roxbury, Mass., as well as for various political campaigns, including those of President Barack Obama, former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick and Secretary of State John Kerry (for his presidential run). When working in such fast-paced environments, she told the audience, one must have the “endurance to deal with people.”
Camargo shared that not only was she the first Latina in her department at AT&T, but she was the first woman — and person — of color. “These positions don’t come up all the time. Almost everyone in my department has been there 24 years plus. … Age is different, styles are different; I think they’re [making] a good effort of diversifying.” When asked how being Latina had affected her career, Camargo said, “I learned so many aspects of the job that … I wouldn’t have learned if it wasn’t for my language,” in respect to her position at DA offices in Miami, Roxbury and at the Superior Court in Boston. While campaigning for Governor Patrick, she found she was able to use her Spanish to organize minority groups, she explained.
Francisco, a native of Honduras, described how he left his native country at the age of 17. Now, Francisco is Managing Director and Head of the Diversity Consulting and Sourcing Office and the Head of Workforce Development programs at State Street Corporation. In addition, Francisco gives his time to many nonprofit organizations. He holds board positions for the National Board of the Association of Latino Professionals for America, the Bentley University School of Business, the Business Advisory Council and is also currently serving on the Advisory Board for Endicott College Boston, to name a few.
On entering the corporate world, Francisco said, “The people at the top of the corporation did not look like me.” He elaborated, using a metaphor to express the need for diversity: “You have to play with a full deck of cards. … When you don’t include Latinos, or you don’t include the LGBT community, or you don’t include the community of people with disabilities, etc., you’re leaving that deck short.”
He continued, emphasizing, “The biggest assets that you have in your company are your people … I’m in the people business.” When asked about his experience as a black man with a Latino background in his workplace, Francisco said, “I’ve not let … my color or my accent … prevent me from doing what I do,” but at the same time cautioned that “people will test how far they can go with you, and you have to stand up for yourself.”
Both Camargo and Francisco also had comments on why working for a for-profit business is not “selling out.” Francisco summarized it as, “You have to help yourself first … in order to be able to impact others’ lives. … There is nothing wrong with the career that you choose; what is wrong is you not reaching down … [and] helping someone.”
Katzmann is the founder and president of Juniper Communities, “which invests in, develops, and manages senior living and long-term care communities,” according to the event handout. Katzmann said that when founding Juniper, “[her] hope was to create environments for older people that [she] would want to live in,” because “an individual person needs to be treated as an individual.” While Katzmann had from the beginning a motive to “change public policy” as well as inspiration from her own grandmother’s life in old-age, she explained that she feels that “most people at work want to make a difference, but few people voice that.”
As a woman in the corporate world, she explained, “The number of times I was called emotional was beyond belief.” She recalled one business meeting between the leaders of her company, during which one of her male associates tried to belittle her. Another woman present at the meeting stepped in on Katzmann’s behalf and loudly told her: “‘He wouldn’t be saying this to you if you were a man.’” Despite many trials as a woman in business, Katzmann said she tries to keep a positive fearless attitude. To all aspiring entrepreneurs, she emphasized the “Three P’s”: planning, passion and perseverance, with “emphasis on the passion.”
The event was sponsored by the Brandeis University Business Program Undergraduate Representatives & Social Justice, Social Policy Undergraduate Representatives, the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program, Hiatt Career Center and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy.