Community Spotlight – Thalea Torres
Tech workers from across the Bay Area have joined TechEquity’s network and given their time, skills, and financial support to make their communities more equitable. We’re proud of our growing community full of intelligent, passionate, engaged citizens, and we want to show them off.
Thalea Torres was born and raised in the Bay Area. She is the Career Development Manager at Ai for All, an organization that focuses on diversity and inclusion in the artificial intelligence space. Thalea is passionate about social justice on a broad scale because of her background in social work that encompasses the interaction between people and systems. Thalea loves fitness—she’s one of those people who loves going to the gym at all times of the day. She enjoys cooking and being mindful about where her food is coming from.
What motivates you to fight structural inequities?
I don’t understand how people can sit with inequities happening around them. For me, the status quo should be equity, and anything beyond that is intolerable. My motivation does not come from the need to address inequities so much as it is an impossibility for me to sit with things in an inequitable state.
A period that was really poignant for me, where I learned to recognize inequities and to see how they translate over the long term was when I had graduated college. I went to Cal and met a bunch of people there who went off on all of their career trajectories and then I returned home to a community without a lot of diversity. I had an opportunity to go to college and create a network of friends that branched out to different industries and jobs, but those who I had grown up with didn’t have that opportunity.
Watching life over time diverge into the separate spaces of income and access and how that changes based on who you know was my big awakening to the inequities around me. It was a crystallizing moment where I realized who you know and where you are really impacts your economic security and wellbeing.
What do you feel is the most important issue that needs to be addressed in California?
The most important issue I think needs to be addressed in California is housing—in particular, access to housing at all levels of affordability. Growing up in the Bay Area, I’ve watched housing become more and more out of reach.
The cost of housing has dictated not just where you physically live, but so much about your life and community.
What does civic engagement mean to you?
I really think civic engagement is fighting that cynicism and apathy that comes from the assumption that other people will take care of our problems, or that you don’t have the power to actually address our problems. I think civic engagement is recognizing that your voice and your neighbors’ voices are necessary and must be included in the conversations about what happens to your community. Engaging as much as you can is part of the civic process, and we need to do this together.
How can tech workers leverage their power, their skills, and privilege for structural change?
Tech workers can leverage their power to make an impact in so many ways. First and foremost, tech is really good at building things that work—there are so many social service agencies that provide to underserved communities that need advancement in technology and accessibility. One way to really help is to utilize those skills to make efficiency, not just for the company you work for, but also for the services in your community.
Another way is to just be an advocate for your community within your company. We have to recognize that there’s a lot of power in the wealth and influence a company has. If you as an employee are recognizing the importance of the community to senior leadership, they will prioritize that on the decisions they make. Tech companies care about their products and employees, so be an advocate within your organization.
Is there a TechEquity project that resonates with you specifically?
There are two TechEquity projects that really resonate with me. The first is the focus on housing and the specific role that tech plays on affecting housing in California. The disparity in incomes has created such a change in the housing market that it is really obvious who is able to afford that housing, and who isn’t. I’m really impressed and excited about all of the housing equity efforts.
Second is TechEquity’s project on contract work and how it is so different from full-time employment. I know quite many contract workers myself. Contracting work is a great pathway for diverse candidates to access these tech organizations, but they’re treated very differently.