Meet Mi Gente

July 22, 2020

Our employee resource group discusses plans for promoting professional development and Latino/Hispanic heritage.

This blog sometimes breaks from economic and Fed topics to feature contributions by, and profiles of, St. Louis Fed employees and their work.

Why? The saying goes that “an organization is only as strong as its people.” The people who work here are central to the Federal Reserve’s mission of promoting a healthy economy and financial stability. They also contribute to a thriving culture at a top-performing workplace.

Today, this space is dedicated to one of the Bank’s newest employee resource groups: Mi Gente. Launched in 2019, Mi Gente (My People) seeks to:

  • Develop an inclusive network of employees.
  • Promote Latino/Hispanic heritage.
  • Create awareness of Latino/Hispanic cultures and languages.
  • Cultivate diversity and the personal and professional development of members.

Gabriela Cornelius, senior analyst, and Carlos Urrutia, assistant manager, work in our Treasury Division and are co-chairs of Mi Gente, along with Jose Natera and Victor Collado. They shared their aspirations for 2020 and beyond.

Gabriela Cornelius

Tell me a little about yourselves and your roles at the St. Louis Fed.

Cornelius: My background is international business, and I have an MBA from Webster University. I joined the Bank in 2014 in the Treasury Division, supporting two applications used by federal agencies.

I have one girl, 14 years old. I really enjoy going out with my family; we like going to dinner, festivals, the Fox and Muny theaters, and other cultural events. We like to travel—that’s what we do on our vacation time. We always go to different beaches in Mexico or the Caribbean for spring break.

Urrutia: My background is in computer science, and I have an MBA from the University of Alcala, Spain. I’ve been at the Bank since 2011. I manage the production support team for two applications and the user acceptance testing team for another application. I also support organizational sites, including data-processing and communication automation tools.

Outside of work, I like to go places with my family. My daughter is 8 years old and my son is 3 years old. I also like to run, so I try to participate in running events during the year.

Cornelius: I have run four half marathons and some 5Ks, and I am part of Mexican folklore and flamenco dance groups. I really enjoy it!

Carlos Urrutia

Forming a new employee resource group takes energy and dedication. How did Mi Gente come about?

Urrutia: Luis Lentijo (senior recruiter in Talent Acquisition), Jennifer Wethington (manager of Talent Acquisition) and I started having conversations about forming the new group. We started reaching out to people we knew and pulled together the founding members.

We needed a name, so we started circulating ideas until we came up with “Mi Gente.” Mi Gente means “my people” in Spanish.

Cornelius: That’s something we use a lot, too, when we’re talking. It gets used a lot within the Latino community. It made sense.

Urrutia: Jennifer started helping us with the documentation process. Her prior experience founding the VIEW employee resource group was instrumental on getting everything together. Lisa Suggs (senior talent development specialist) also helped us to refine the documentation until we went live. Lisa is still doing a great job in supporting our group.

At a high level, what are you focused on?

Urrutia: We want to nurture a supportive environment for the Latino/Hispanic community and contribute to the success of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ mission. We want to raise awareness that there is a thriving Hispanic group here at the Bank. We want to be able to build a network with employees to be able to share our culture.

Beyond serving the Bank’s mission and benefiting our members, we can also do something for the community, whether related to economic education or recruitment and talent outreach, to connect even more with the Hispanic population in the Eighth Federal Reserve District.

Getting our leaders involved as executive sponsors is essential. They understand the importance of the employee resource groups and what we can give to support the organization. It takes time to engage more people, so it’s great that leaders can give their time to support our goals. Our executive sponsor, Executive Vice President Kathy Paese, has provided great support. She has been able to promote the ERG to the leaders of the Bank, communicating what we do and the benefits for the Bank, like our efforts to support the St. Louis Fed’s mission and provide professional development for our members.

The goals of this employee resource group include personal and professional development. How might Mi Gente help in that capacity?

Cornelius: Everyone is welcome to join this employee resource group. One way that employees of all backgrounds can seek personal and professional development is to learn a language. They can learn or practice Spanish. As we mentioned during our kickoff event:

  • “Latino” is about geography; it means from Latin America, which refers mostly to everything south of the United States, including the Caribbean.
  • “Hispanic” refers to language, meaning from a country whose primary language is Spanish. But not every country in Latin America speaks Spanish.

Urrutia: A lot of people are interested in learning Spanish. People can feel very motivated if you get the opportunity to learn a language at work, especially if you don’t have any other opportunities to learn a new language.

Cornelius: We are planning on working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis. It’s about networking, getting to know people from different companies, and that’s the way also to find talent.

You mentioned talent and connecting with the broader community. Can you provide some context?

Cornelius: I arrived to St. Louis in 1988. I recall there were two Mexican restaurants, and one was founded by my family, my aunt and uncle. After a while, a lot more Mexican restaurants started opening; Cherokee Street now has little markets. In high school, I was the only Latina, and a guy from Puerto Rico was the only Latino. People had trouble believing that I was from Mexico. It’s a mind-set that is hard to break.

Elsewhere in society, people may think everybody’s from Mexico, and it’s like, “No, hold on. There are other countries past Mexico. There’s Central America and South America.”

There are different activities and events, too. Teaching people about the different cultures is part of what I would like to do. For example, in Mexico, there is a lot of Spanish and French influence due to the colonization. The Cinco de Mayo celebration commemorates a battle between the French and the Mexicans for the town of Puebla, not Mexican Independence. Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico, but it’s a very commercial event here in the states.

Gabriela Cornelius, co-chair of Mi Gente, performs during the employee resource group’s kickoff event at the St. Louis Fed. She stresses the importance of greater societal awareness of Latin American cultures and histories.

Urrutia: Five-year data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2018, show the Hispanic or Latino population is 84,000 in the St. Louis metropolitan statistical area, about 3%. Our employee resource group includes employees from Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba, in addition to other Spanish-speaking colleagues and many other allies here at the Bank. We can support the organization’s diversity recruiting strategy.

Cornelius: There is a lot of talent in the marketplace; we need to go and find it.

Urrutia: In addition to reaching out to the Hispanic population, it’s also important to explain what the St. Louis Fed does, because not everybody knows that. We just got started last year.

Cornelius: We have a formal mentoring developing program with the chairs and we are hoping to develop a similar program for all members of the ERG. We also started a lunch and language program for any St. Louis Fed employees trying to learn and practice a new language that co-workers might know or want to learn.

Urrutia: We’re meeting with other Hispanic ERGs at other Reserve Banks to collaborate on a program for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. We also would like to have a Q&A session with a top Bank leader. These are the things we want to accomplish for this year.

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This blog explains everyday economics, consumer topics and the Fed. It also spotlights the people and programs that make the St. Louis Fed central to America’s economy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the St. Louis Fed or Federal Reserve System.

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