Representation is truly essential most importantly in the tech space. In a traditional white male dominated industry, there are many women of color specifically Black women who have so much to bring to the table. Unfortunately, this space is very limited due to the lack of representation in diversity, but it is time to break barriers and be about inclusion.It’s courageous, powerful, intellectual and most of all top tier women like Adrea Sproles who is doing the work to bridge the gap and also using her platform to raise awareness about diversity in the tech space. As an Afro-Mexican woman, she can understand the experience of lack of visibility for WOC. She continues to amplify Black voices in corporate America and serve as a positive role model so younger generations have better and stronger opportunities. The cycle breaks here and for women’s history month we highlight Adrea and her efforts to inspire women in her community.
What does Afro-Latina mean to you and is this a term you always coexisted with?
Being Afro-Latina for me, means embracing my roots from both my mother and fathers side. Knowing that I am just as much of African descent as I am Mexican. They both can coexist in me and deserve recognition of both cultures, experiences , languages and history.
Did you ever feel the pressure to choose between being Latino and Black?
To be honest, yes! I grew up with my mother who is African American so it was hard for me to acknowledge let alone celebrate my Mexican roots. Partly due to the disconnect with accepting i was biracial due to being told i wasn’t light enough to be “mixed” by classmates so in a way i dissociated. My skin color is mahogany. There wasn’t much of an influence or presence for me to see myself in so I gravitated towards the African American experience.
Did you ever feel often hidden and underrepresented?
There wasn’t much of a role model or person I could identify in looking like me in my circle of people. My mother’s side of my family is African American. We cooked soul food on Sundays. I didn’t know about any tamales or menudo until I was in my later teenage years and even then I couldn’t correlate me to the Mexican community. Loved the people, food and language. It wasn’t until later in life I found myself being able to identify myself in the community and the respect as well as love grew because these were just as much as my people as the next Mexican person despite my skin color.
How did this make you feel and what did you do to ensure you felt included?
I did nothing for a while. It wasn’t until college my best friend asked about my ethnic background and I said well I’m Black but my father is Mexican and she said wait you’re Afro-Latina why didn’t you claim that and I told her I didn’t know how. By this time the term “Afro Latino” was gaining traction. I didn’t want to feel like I was on the bandwagon! Plus, I didn’t know how to embrace the other side of me. I felt out of place until I started researching Afro-Mexican and seeing people that looked just like me. I took up Spanish so I could fully understand the language of my people and anytime there was a holiday or an event on campus or around town that highlighted Latinos and Hispanic culture as well as history I attended so that I could be a representation for someone else.
Where do Black women stand in corporate America, did you ever feel voiceless?
I feel like we are really making strides. Our visibility and demand is through the roof right now. However with that being said we as women of color look good for statics for a lot of our companies, when it comes inclusion and being heard that’s another story and often in that you can feel voiceless.
Do you feel like there is a safe space for us to grow in our career successfully?
I feel like our safe space is around people who not only are open minded but like minded when it comes to our ideas, opinions etc. We would have to create the space we desire to have if given the opportunity to do so.
How can a Black woman navigate to the top in corporate America?
Honestly don’t accept no for an answer! No, it’s not right now. Go for every advancement, every meeting, keep going, don’t get stagnant.
What triggered your passion to work within the tech industry ?
I went to math science and technology schools all through grade school so naturally I was interested in technology more so engineering and then i kind of just fell into tech positions during and after college the rest is history.
Did you face any challenges during your career journey? How did you overcome those tribulations?
I guess we can say challenges in entry level positions, I just knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term so i had to keep putting myself out there. Adding additional skill sets to my resume and anywhere I had a question to ask someone about their position, how did they get here etc, I would.
Were there spaces that ensured professional development and networking opportunities for you as a BIOPIC?
To a certain degree, they could have been better. I feel like a lot of mixers or events were set up for us but not by us! And so it was more so to show “inclusion” not really for the true advancement of us as a collective.
Have you ever faced discrimination or sexism thus far in your career and if so how did you handle it?
Absolutely, but I always kept in the front of my mind that I deserve to be here! I worked just as hard as my counterparts, I’m the head and not the tail and I conquer anything I put my mind to. To move in love in all things and to continue to strive for greatness despite what’s being thrown at me.
How do you use your platform to create a space for Afro-Latinas in the tech space?
I use my platform to bring awareness to women like me in tech, with a diverse background really women of color in general! I try to host as many panels or virtual events with us in mind so that we can grow in numbers but also in community. It’s important to feel seen, be heard and paid your worth. It’s important for us to connect, learn from one another, share experiences and even potential advancement.