In episode 164, Kerel talks with Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder at We Are All Human, a non-profit organization that has a single purpose to remind people that we belong to the same human family. Claudia was born in Mexico City to two parents, both basketball players, she was surrounded by strong females, learned discipline and other successful traits, moved to Europe to work with the UN, and then eventually moved to America. For the first time in her life, she learned what Hispanic was, why people called her that and the ramifications of shame, embarrassment and other negative connotations that came from that.
Since starting her career, Claudia has had a massive impact, not only on the Hispanic community, but also other minority communities in helping them uncover and use their authentic power. Claudia claims she is not an activist, but a factivist - a person who fights for societal change based on facts and data. She has discovered that groups historically known as the minority in the United States are transforming into the majority, why companies should pay attention to them and how much buying power they have, and how those in the Hispanic community can be a voice for their community as they move into senior positions at top corporations. Claudia has so many resources to help those in minority groups find their power and make a difference including her foundation, her A LA LATINA podcast, the Hispanic Leadership Summit, the Hispanic Star and more.
“Make no mistake, we are going in that direction of minorities actually being majorities. And winners will be those that put their strategies around understanding how everybody wants to be able to be all themselves, their full selves everywhere they go.”
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of MRP, Erick and Kerel's Minority Report Podcast. Each episode we talk with leaders in business, tech and media. And today we have another awesome guest joining us. Claudia Romo Edelman, Founder at We Are All Human. Welcome, Claudia.
Claudia Romo Edelman 00:29
Thank you so very much for having me. It's such an honor, I really love your podcast.
Thank you, I appreciate it. And I'm super excited about this episode, and really digging into a number of different topics that I'm excited to talk with you about. But before we get there, let's take it back. Let's talk about you. Where were you born and raised?
Claudia Romo Edelman 00:51
I was born and raised in Mexico, I'm from the north of Mexico, I grew up in Mexico City, daughter of two basketball players. My mother was a professional basketball player playing for the national team in Mexico, she met my father playing ball. So you can only imagine, you know, like the household that we had. I grew up in a family of very strong women. I left Mexico just after finishing my college studies. And I went to Europe and I never came back. I lived and worked as a journalist, as a diplomat and as a global mobilization expert in Europe, moving from diplomacy for Mexico to diplomacy for the United Nations and the system. And I moved to America nine years ago, and that was the first ever time, Kerel, that I heard that I was a Hispanic. I never heard that term in my entire life. Before, I was a happy Mexican all my life and I was like, "What is this Hispanic thing?" So that started my new journey as a Latina.
Wow, I definitely want to dig into all of that. Want to take it back to your parents, athletes, growing up with two athletes, I'm sure as an athlete, very competitive, but also if you're going to be a professional athlete and excel, you also have to be very disciplined, too. And so I'm wondering if those were a couple of qualities and traits that you picked up from your parents as well?
Claudia Romo Edelman 02:16
Yeah, 100%. Absolutely. And for me, I think that I cannot even understand life without having exercise, as my- part of my routine. And I think that that's where I have structure, I have an understanding of routine, somehow they gave a gift to me. And so it doesn't matter if there's a pandemic, or if there's, you know, like an uncomfortable situation made of change. I think that sports really hold me tight. They are the things that I know, I want to start my day at certain time, I'm going to take a shower, I'm going to get dressed, I'm going to work and the day after the same thing. So I think that it gave me that. And if you've ever met- Kerel, there's one more thing, my parents had a very unusual situation where they had three kids, I was a middle one. And all of us grew up and developed over fast if you want like an over pace, everybody was like, wow, these kids are talking too fast or running too fast or walking too fast. And my siblings, both of them hit the nine month mark, and then started going backwards. So from running to walking, walking, crawling, crawling, sitting down until they died. They died when they both were 18 months old. And that between the athletic side of my parents with the discipline and the routine, but also with this new circumstance where I was growing up under a microscope, if you want, because everybody was like "When is she gonna turn? When is she gonna die? When is she gonna like start going backwards?" And growing up with a sense of my aunts and everybody was like, "Oh, mija, you're so strong, stronger than that." There must be a reason why. So I think that between the discipline of being an athlete family, and having a sense that everything is possible, right? Like if you're able to defeat that, then why not? Then that has led me to do everything that I have done to work in organizations that have really ambitious goals, like let's fight AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria, let's defeat maternal mortality, let's eradicate poverty. And I understand that now, because I just like think that everything is possible. And we have seen it, the world is more malleable than what we think. You can kiss it into shape and you can kick it into shape more but that's pretty much you know, like an upbringing that pretty much defines who I am, what I do and how I see life.
Yeah, that's what I was gonna ask you, too, is it seems like now that you've explained that part of your life that really drives your dedication in your career to create social change. Is that accurate?
Claudia Romo Edelman 04:55
1000%. But me and you, like we have seen- we have seen change happening in front of our own eyes. When I was a kid, I remember my father wanted to be like the cowboy of the [inaudible]. He wanted to be like the tight jeans and super cool. And, you know, like, my mother was making perfect puffs of cigarette and you could smoke in planes. And like my first ever campaign in life as a marketer, there was anti-tobacco. And look how the world changed, this legislation is prohibited socially is something that you don't want to do, and even individually is reprehensive. So I think that that's where I know that we can turn the way that we did with tobacco, we can turn racism the same way. We can make it something socially unacceptable, you can make the xenophobia and discrimination something that is in the past that there is going to be penalties at the regulatory level that socially is unacceptable that individuals will feel the same guilt that you feel on doing something that is against society and against your, your own health and family. And I am 100% clear that I think we can see a world where we can move the needle from tolerance to acceptance. So it's not necessarily about being optimistic, it's about being possibilistic and saying how do we make it possible?
Yeah, I 1000% agree with you. You run into people, though, that don't have the same optimism that you have, that don't have the same passion that you have. And sometimes we see setbacks in societal changes that are very frustrating. Where do you get the energy, the strength, the motivation to keep pushing forward? You know, just in this conversation, you and I have only met a couple of times, but you are super passionate about what you do. You're super positive about social change. Where does that drive come from?
Claudia Romo Edelman 06:50
Data! Data. It's true, it just like they're- like there's a book from Hans Rosling, and he was like a mentor and a guidance for me for so much, where you can see the facts. He's not about being an activist, I'm just a factivist. They are all these browner, more feminine and with a bigger heart than ever before. And that's a great thing for everybody. And if you would be a baby girl flying in the sky, there will be no better place to be born but today, not five years ago, not 10 years ago, not in the Middle Ages, not in the caves. Never has the world been better for a woman, for a human being to be born. We have more access to electricity, to health, to education, to voting, even if we're bombarded with negative news and we think that the world is going backwards, we're making progress. Maybe not as fast as we want, maybe not as much as we want, but we understand that we're making progress, there's by far more chances that we continue doing so if we feel that we are in the winning team. And you want to make sure that you paint a picture that is really an ambitious goal, where people can follow and be part of it. And I think that that's where one of my superpowers come seen being a market there and a mobilization, global mobilization, like expert, if you want, it's about drawing some campaigns where you're like, "Okay, for the next 10 years, we're all going to push for that direction." And the change is never easy, but definitely possible. And I do think that we are in the time of diversity, equity and inclusion. And for those of you that are like, "Yeah, but there's push backs, and there's an anti DEI and ESD and all that, no, I shouldn't be investing in these, this is risky." I like, I just want to assure you, this is going to be here for the next 20 years, 30 years, don't misunderstand little bumps on the way as these turns from where society's going, people are watching. They want to hear stories like yours and I, Kerel. They want to be reflected, they want to buy from companies that respect humanity, they want to work in companies where they can be themselves. So make no mistake, we are going in that direction of minorities actually being majorities. And winners will be those that put their strategies around understanding how everybody wants to be able to be all themselves, their full selves everywhere they go.
Now, you've lived in multiple countries, you speak six languages, if I've read that correctly, how has that shaped your perspective on people that come from different cultures and backgrounds? Because you have an experience that I dare to say most people don't have, right? A lot of people grow up in one country they speak one language but you know, you speak, again, multiple languages and that has to give you a different perspective.
Claudia Romo Edelman 09:52
Incredible, right? Like I recall when I started working, for example, in the German part of Switzerland, and I came into the office of my counterpart doing something, like quite a serious negotiation, let alone that I was a woman. I just saw the imaginary pineapple growing on my head on the imagination of the person that I was going to meet. They're like, "Oh, Roomba, exotic!" so I didn't matter, Kerel, what I was going to say, they were like, "Oh, yeah, whatever," they were like imagining, drawing their imagination, putting their associations and their unconscious biases on thinking that I was like government made under or something. And I learned how to survive on minority, I learned how to survive being the only one that saw [inaudible]. Like I had to understand that "Okay, perfect. Next time, I will come with a Roomba outfit so that you sign the papers faster. So I can dance a little bit, while, you know, like, while, you sign a refugee, asylum seeker petition or whatever." You learn how to play those games when you're exposed to so many different things. And I do think that moving to America, and again, it was, it was for me a shock. I was like, "What is this Hispanic thing?" I was like, "Hispanic, what? Who invented that word?" And I know that in America, everybody's used to those words and those terms, but they don't exist in the world out there. So if you're like a Mexican, you moved to America, all of a sudden, you're like, you forget your nationality, you belong to a group. And that group, by default, by mistake happens to be associated with negative things, with stereotypes, with you know, like criminal pizza delivers, killers, we're not in front of camera, we're not behind camera. So for me, it was, I was clear that what I was doing and reading on the data was massive. I was like, "Wow, I'm gonna be after, you know, six different languages, after 10 different countries where I lived, now, finally, I'm going to be part of the majority." Because Latinos are 20% of the population. And I saw the data and I was like, "Oh, wow, we generate 12% of the GDP. So when I go out in the street, they're gonna roll the red carpet, and they're gonna say, like, 'Latina! welcome! Thank you so much for your contributions to my salary and my salary!' and how many jobs we create and how many jobs," but the reality, Kerel, is very different. The realities, I went out in the street and I said, "Like, I'm a Latina." And they were like, "Wow, you don't look Latina," as if it would be a compliment to me that I don't look Latina. And then, and then people started, you know, like making associations that if I am a Latina, therefore I belong to, you know, like, "Yeah, you can go to the kitchen," when I went to my, like, now with my husband to his [inaudible] school friends, they were everybody like guiding me to their gardeners or their cooks or their kitchen, because they were like, that's the association of Latina they had. And that's when you start seeing that diversity and inclusion can be exclusive, and that not everybody understands, particularly when you have not lived in a broad world, everybody has more biases. So the more ignorant you are, the more racist you are, the more prone to have, you know, like a smaller view you have. So it was really shocking for me to come to America where people speak one language and mostly are one unit, like have been living in one single country. And that's when I started to think I wanted to work on my community. I wanted to make sure that everything that I know, could be applying for my community because I moved to America nine years ago, and I got married to an American six years ago. So all of us, this became personal. And I was not going to see my daughter make 50% of the salary only because I decided to marry an American, she was going to make 50% of the salary only because she's a Latina. And that's when I started the foundation, the We Are All Human Foundation to remind people that we're all human, and to make sure that we can rebrand and repurpose and reimagine what Latinos means so that we can be seen as what we are, positive contributors to the country, that everybody understands that America is made of stars, and we, Hispanics, we're one of them.
Yeah, and I was gonna go right into that question next. Tell us a little bit more about We Are All Human, and the work that you do there.
Claudia Romo Edelman 14:09
We Are All Human is a non for profit that I created six years ago with a single purpose to remind people of that. That we belong to the same human family because the data was clear. Racism, xenophobia, and discrimination eight years ago, were growing like insane. They were getting more traction than positive connotations and diversity. And I could see the George Floyd's of the world happening, I could see the data indicated hate going up and so on. So you could see Brexit, you could see hate, you could see crime going up. And so I set up this foundation just with that purpose in mind to create that sense of humanity to understand that what happens to one person affects the others. And then obviously, you could see that with COVID. There was no way that anybody could be, you know, like could be exposed, like safe from something like a pandemic. Everybody lived it differently, but everybody was affected the same way or, you know, like was not immune to be affected to COVID. We started working on the Latino community with the purpose of advancing Latinos to showcasing that Latinos are positive contributors to the country, to rebrand Latinos. And we started by doing, understanding, why was it the case? Why were Latinos so big in paper, and so small in reality? Why are the numbers of Latinos so powerful, but every one of my Hispanic friends feel so small? Why do we have such a distorted mirror where we just don't see each other as what we are in the size that we have? So we understood that one of the things we needed to do was to create a sense of unity for the Latino community - Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, we have 26 different countries of origin, and we're very fragmented. And if you're a marketer, and you want to talk to Latinos, it's very expensive. And if you're a politician, it's very hard to get all the Latino vote because we don't talk to each other, we have the little bubbles, everyone is on their own bubble. So it was important to try to unify Latinos, and to create a sense of community. And I think that we're doing a great job. Five years ago to now we're getting there. Same with pride. Latinos five years ago, we started measuring how it was so much easier to hide yourself from being Latino, so that you don't risk your career. You know, like some communities, you can't hide who you are, Latinos can. And they hide their name, and they hide their accent, and they hide, because there's so much stereotyping. And so we started working towards pride and education. And I think that we're going in the right direction. We created a symbol that you can see here called the Hispanic star. So like our brand, the way that the rainbow is for the LGBTQ, Latinos don't have a symbol. So WPP was kind enough to grant us with a symbol that is a brand that we're gonna grow so that when you see this in the street, in the future, you're like, "Yeah, I'm a Hispanic star that the star from the American flag, the Enya from Espanol or Portuguese, you put it together, and boom, it's the 200% of us." 100% Latino, 100% American, but also something that allows for company, some brands to talk to us and say, like "I see you, I see that you're a star, that you're a positive contributor to the country, that America's made of stars and Hispanics are one of them." So I think that the work of the World Human Foundation is really effective. We work with 350 companies in helping them to create their Latino strategies. We work with the 100 most important Latino organizations that represent more than 15 million Latinos, so that we can insert a sense of unity and pride. And now we're working towards the advancement of Latinas. And so we launched a podcast called A LA LATINA, the playbook to succeed being your authentic self so that we can help Latinas try to break the glass ceiling in representation in top corporations.
That's awesome. How long has the podcast been going for now?
Claudia Romo Edelman 18:08
Nothing it's just [inaudible].
Oh, it's new. Ok, alright!
Claudia Romo Edelman 18:13
But look, the reality is that Latinos are 9% of the population but less than 1% in senior corporate positions. So we have less than 32 Latinas in the C suite of Fortune 500. So we're interviewing every one of them to give us a playbook to say, like, how do you do it? And how do you get there? But also, how do you get there without losing yourself? Without having to penalize and suppress who you are, and pretend that you're like not a Latina, and being your authentic self? And providing inspiration for others that need to see it so that they can be it and create a sense of network of other Latinas that want to support each other. So we have less than two months of the podcast, this is our season one, we're about to close our 12th episode. It's been the most incredible learning experience for me, it's my own little MBA, I'm like learning so much. And I'm really excited about like the podcast, A LA LATINA that I really recommend for any group, not only for Latinos, but I think that for everybody of us, for anyone that is in the Minority Report, to go and check out the playbook, all the tricks and tips that we have to pass on to each other so that we can share the access code and open the door for all of us to get in. So that is for self interest for us to defend our voices that are different to the other so that we're not pushed away as easily. So I'm excited about the future of A LA LATINA, and I invite every one of your audience to pay attention and to have a look.
Yeah, definitely. We will get the link to the playbook and we will share that on the blog and in the podcast episode as well, too. Claudia, I have to imagine that in the position that you're in, the work that you're doing, what you've accomplished in your career, you have a lot of people that reach out to you that are looking for advice, that are looking for some level of mentorship. How do you approach mentoring others?
Claudia Romo Edelman 20:16
I personally take five mentees a year. I have learned that one of the greatest- part of the playbook is to be a great mentee so that other people can help you grow. I think that everybody has the right intentions, but if you're not equipped already, then it's harder to help you. So help me help you. So I try to mentor five people a year. But I think that overall, the podcast is a great mentorship tool, providing that at scale. So I take on five a year where I can become a sponsor of someone in the future, because I think that that's the way that the natural transition that you have to go through through our mentorship. And then you sponsor some people that you want to believe on and put skin in the game. We create a number of content pieces so that we can do mentorship and inspiration and empowerment at large. We are about to launch our Hispanic Leadership Summit, December 6th and 7th is the platform of the most important Latino leaders and allies to agree on our agenda. We gather people at the United Nations in New York City for a day and a half, so that they can learn the data, get the playbooks, get the resources and the tools needed, so that we can paint a picture of what success looks like, so that we can understand what the agenda, the unified agenda for Latinos is so that we can go and get it done the year after. And I think that that's one of the most important pieces of learning, inspiration, empowerment and mobilization that we have. We close the year with a gala that I hope it is going to become the Met Gala for Latinos, December 7th. Which I really hope that, again, becomes a piece of, if not mentorship, a true statement to change the narrative so that we can be seen as what we are - fashion stars and sports stars and elevating our narrative overall. The content that we produce, the personal stories that we have and I do think that having the opportunity to be grateful for our allies like you, and say, "Thank you so much for the platform giving to the Latino voice. Thank you so much for allowing someone like me to be able to share the story, to share the number so that we can get more allies." And I think that those are using the platforms that we have so that we can advance but also take someone with us is the best gift we can give so that the next generation of Latinas, minority groups can make and have the time.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Claudia Romo Edelman 22:46
Young Latinas. 1000%. And I spend a lot of my time going around the country, and talking to people, talking to people that are in entry or mid level careers, that are sharing their stories about how they have to hide their accent, because they feel ashamed and it affects their self confidence. And using the flip the script technique that we use at the foundation, and tell them like, "Look, if you're really conscious about what your accent means, then you're going to be able to flip the script for yourself and make sure that others understand." You see, when you have unconscious stereotypes, Kerel, for example, accent-ism, you don't even think about it, your mind is telling you when someone has an accent, it means that they are less competent, because neutral accent is associated with intelligence. But if you don't have a neutral accent it's not related to intelligence, you start thinking that that person doesn't belong to the group. There's issues of trust. And for us, when you're the victim of an unconscious stereotype, their self confidence is affected, your obviously your career visibility is affected, because you're not going to raise your hand as much. And when I go and talk to young Latinos and Latinas, particularly, I say like, "Look, let's break this down, if you have an accent it's because you speak at least two languages. And if you speak two languages, your brain is better equipped, and you can talk to two groups. And not only that-
Claudia Romo Edelman 24:11
-you're not only bilingual, but bicultural, therefore, you can talk to two different cultures, you're probably better at navigation of negotiation skills, you can be putting global deals in international deals. When you have a bilingual mindset, your brain is more adaptable, more flexible, you're able to sustain situations of conflict and therefore you're more unshakable. Now, does that feel better?" And if you're a peer or a mentor, or a manager, that you get it that all of a sudden you're like, "Oh my god, okay, now I see. Now my people with an accent should lead with their accent as opposed to try to hide it. And I should like see that happening because it creates more empathy with other groups that also have an accent, and you can put them in the positions where you're able to thrive." So my inspiration comes from the real change that you can see happen immediately. [inaudible] like America Ferrara did in Barbie, of going to, you know, like going to talking to the Barbies and say like, "Wait, break the spell. Remember, you are powerful, you are powerful, so don't think that the story, don't let the gaslighting affect you and just like come back to real," and that is something that can happen. We can break the unconscious stereotypes and the biases that we have. And we can provide people with a better understanding of themselves so that they start their, their journey in a position of power, understanding that their ethnicity and their Latini that is a superpower, not a difficulty and a weaknesses for their lives.
Such such great advice and I know that the listeners are definitely going to enjoy hearing you say that such great advice. Thank you for that, Claudia. Really appreciate that. What advice would Claudia today give to Claudia who was just first starting out in her career?
Claudia Romo Edelman 26:02
I have thought so much about it through the process of my own podcast. I have been like banging myself on the wall, like oh my god. I really think that I should have taken risk earlier. I was so risk averse. I thought that the opportunities that were given to me were rare and that I should grab them and take them and be grateful for it. And there's an expression in Spanish that says [inaudible], like quiet and smile, just talk less, smile more that says don't rock the boat. And I didn't rock the boat for a long time because I thought I only have this chance and my career might be at risk if I don't take this at hand, but I learned particularly through listening to the interviews of the podcast A LA LATINA, that careers are long. That you can take risk and go in lateral moves and backwards and in order to go forward. So I think that everyone, particularly on the minority side of life, should take the big bet. We shouldn't do things halfway because the numbers are with us. When you understand that we're 20% of the population, almost that the African American community is 13% of the population, that together we're 1/3 of America, hello, let's take the big bet. We can choose to work the jobs where we want to be. There's no way that companies can hire or sell without us, there's no way that politician can win an election without us, so, take the court, take the big bet and live your life fully, freely and authentically.
I love it. Great, great advice. Alright, I have two fun questions for you now. You mentioned sports earlier. What's your favorite sport?
Claudia Romo Edelman 27:45
So my daughter is a volleyball player. She's going to be playing volleyball in college. So I would say volleyball is the number one.
Okay, all right. Awesome. And now the second question, what's in your music rotation right now that you're listening to?
Claudia Romo Edelman 27:59
Celia Cruz, Celia Cruz, La vida es un carnaval. I love her. I love all the follow ups after her, like all day, you know like salsa. She's the queen of salsa. And then the ramifications she had in rap, the ramifications she had in house, the ramifications and the influence that she's having with reggaeton. So I love her.
Claudia Romo Edelman 28:22
Well, Claudia, thanks for joining me today on the podcast. I really appreciate it, really appreciate you sharing some, some great insights about your career and your podcast and your organization as well too. For those listening, if they want to continue the conversation with you and get in touch with you, what's the best way they can reach out to you and follow you.
Claudia Romo Edelman 28:42
Thank you so very much. Instagram is a great way, the website hispanicstar.org. My Instagram is Claudia Romo Edelman and I am on LinkedIn as well. So, very much looking forward.
Awesome. Well, thank you again, Claudia for joining us. And for those of you listening, thank you for tuning in to another episode of Minority Report Podcast. You can find this episode and all episodes wherever you listen to your audio and video just search for the logo, Minority Report Podcast. Thank you again, Claudia.
Claudia Romo Edelman 29:15
Thank you so much, Kerel. That was awesome.