GET Cities Miami kicks off with a new leader and big plans. Let’s meet her.

The Melinda French Gates-backed organization is focused on gender equality in tech

As Miami’s tech community is growing at an explosive pace, Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities is setting up a hub here to help close the equity gap for women in technology. GET Cities aims to l work collaboratively with the region’s tech ecosystem organizations to propel more women, particularly Black, Latin, Indigenous, and people of color, into tech education, careers, and leadership.  The Melinda French Gates-backed organization announced in December that Miami would be the third city it selected for its work, and now that is getting underway.

Victoria Santamarina, GET Cites’ new managing director for Miami, said that with so many people moving to the area and joining the tech community, the focus continues to be on attracting more people and companies. “I feel it’s very important to start having these conversations of equity, and I don’t see that necessarily in the  agendas. GET Cities has this vast opportunity to help build our tech ecosystem in Miami that is centered on inclusivity,” she said.

“What makes this program unique is that we want to make sure we respect and celebrate Miami’s culture, and … that we make sure we build [gender equity in tech] together, within the community,” Santamarina continued. “I’m honored to be part of that.”

Santamarina comes from a background in social impact work, most recently as executive director of CADENA International, a nonprofit that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide. Before that she worked in Seattle for  Prospera Mexico, a nonprofit dedicated to empower low-income women and promote labor inclusion in multinational companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola FEMSA, and Fundacion Walmart.

The new role for Santamarina may seem very different, but it’s really not, she says. With her work with CADENA coordinating humanitarian missions, it was critical to learn and work local stakeholders in those local communities and understand how the community was structured and how the organization could help. “What I learned from that work was that whenever the status quo is shifting, there is more of a collective desire for social innovation,” she said, noting that Miami ecosystem is now undergoing a big shift with all the new players moving to the area. “People can come together to solve problems in inclusive and innovative ways.”

Born and raised in Argentina, Santamarina moved to the US in 2012 to study international development at Duke University. After her work at Prospera Mexico and other organizations, she moved to Miami in 2018 to lead CADENA. In addition to the opportunity to lead a humanitarian relief organization, she said, “being more connected to the Latin American culture was something crucial for me.”

Noting that tech now shares a machismo culture that she is familiar with from her homeland, Santamarina continued: “I want to play a role in building an ecosystem that is truthful to Miami, one that reflects the heartbeat of Miami, its people, their culture. As Miami is rising as a tech hub, it’s important not only for me, but I would say for every woman, to help rewrite this narrative and work to ensure that there is equitable balance of power, and that includes women, trans and non binary people, to make sure that at the table, everyone is represented.”

What’s ahead for GET Cities? Santamarina said lots of learning and discussions with stakeholders in the tech ecosystem, both those who are in decision-making roles and those who are not, to understand the opportunities. “The idea is not just to copy and paste something that already exists in a different city or do something that maybe another organization is already doing here. We want to add value,” she said.

Although nothing has been decided yet as GET Cities does more research, Santamarina said a few examples of projects GET Cities could do is work with big corporations and see where there are gaps in their hiring processes and their promotion processes that may be leading to a lack of diversity. Another project could be focused on VCs and their processes for considering new investments, as well as offering tools and additional support to angel groups that are female run. Leslie Lynne Smith, GET Cities’ National Director, said in an earlier interview, that another program could entail connecting slow-growing so-called lifestyle businesses with tech-enabled opportunities.

GET Cities Miami, which is seeking to hire a program manager, will also be putting together a Tech Equity Working Group and then plans to hold what it calls a “Big Think” in coming months.

GET Cities will also help bring Break Through Tech, its partner, to FIU, which also plans an imminent launch in the Miami area. The Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences is one of the fastest-growing in the country, and has one of the most diverse student populations. With three-quarters of FIU’s female CES students being Black, Latina or Indigenous, FIU provides the opportunity to exponentially grow the number of diverse women in computing.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected]


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