Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 – October 15. In recognition, Pride in Our Workplace is highlighting the thought leadership of a trailblazer in Boston’s LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, Bianca Robinson.
Bianca is the Associate Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E) at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, having held similar roles in diversity, she now leads Vertex’s Global ID&E Learning.
In today’s Q&A, Bianca shares with us the ways in which connections to her own heritage and support from trans mentors have informed her approach as a diversity, equity, and inclusion leader in the workplace.
Read our full interview with Bianca and her message to future generations of Latinx leaders below.
Q: Bianca, tell us about yourself, your heritage, and what it means to you:
A: I’m Puerto Rican; I grew up in San Juan and moved to the U.S. mainland in my early adulthood. Growing up in a household that centered elders as leaders, I recognize that who I am today is strongly influenced by my grandparents and the queer elders who would later mentor me. My grandparents were some of the first ‘Americans’ following the recognition of citizenship to the island in 1917, a generation defined by the grand experiment of existing at the intersection of being Latinx and American; a contrasting lived experience from our other sibling nations across Latin America. Because of this influence, I would describe us as connectors and innate trailblazers.
As a young trans person in the late the 90s and early 2000s, I had many elders in my community who shielded me from the harsh realities of being queer at that time. One of my community ‘mothers’ is of note; Christina Hayworth is a lesser known figure when mentioning pioneers such as Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, but she too was part of this transformational group of trans-identified pioneers at Stonewall.
Like many Puerto Ricans, she returned later in life to our island nation from New York City. She carved the path for me — and countless others in our community — by organizing and leading the first Puerto Rican Pride Parade. Her guidance, support, and spirit always led me to believe that I could be myself in this world and that I could succeed.
My cultural heritage gives me hope, determination, and direction; I know that whether I am navigating a new environment or charting a new path, I am well-equipped with a healthy dose of strength.
Sylvia Rivera (with Christina Hayworth and Julia Murray)
Q: How has this identity influenced your approach to leadership?
A: As a Puerto Rican trans woman, I’m aware that I often am the ‘only one’ in the room with my identity profile. I leverage my unique lenses to be of service through out-of-the-box perspectives, an ability to disrupt assumptions, and a deep desire to question traditionally held beliefs and standards. I believe these skills are why and how I arrived at the work of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity. I also believe this is why it is so critical to have diverse perspectives in the room. As we build a more socially conscious workforce, we must lean on diversity of thought, identities, backgrounds, and experiences.
Q: Do you have any advice to share with the next generation of Latinx/e LGBTQ+ professionals?
A: I have a few pieces of advice:
- The skillset that got you here will not always get you to the next level: I’ve heard this idea before but not until recently did I truly understand it. Without having a growth mindset, taking actionable steps, and creating a development plan, our dreams will remain just that; lean into constant transformation,
- Set aside cancel culture and cultures of exclusions, and embrace dialogue: Disrupting harm in the moment is important, but let’s not forget that facilitating a dialogue is a much harder skill to master; and,
- Hard work does not equate to strategic thinking: As Latinx/e folks we pride ourselves on hard work and may lose sight of thinking about the bigger picture as we develop our careers.
Q: What is your final message to PIOW readers?
A: The LGBTQ+ community is at an intersection with many paths to choose from. This can cause fear, uncertainty, and confusion. I believe if we do not act, clarify, and evolve our community model to better reflect the diversity of human experiences and the intersections of queer and non-queer identities, we are not practicing the love and acceptance we so passionately proclaim.
We are all being called to address our own communities’ systemic barriers to access that have gone unexamined for far too long. We must adopt a culture that encourages discussion of the limiting dynamics, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that perpetuate the current state of uncertainty in our community. Younger generations are deconstructing the ‘us vs. them’ model and embracing radical acceptance. I believe that what we have long been fighting for is a state in which being gay, bi, trans or nonbinary is a non-issue.
We thank Bianca for sharing her experience and leadership insights with us.
LIVE TOWN HALL EVENT, BOSTON
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