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Q&A with Liz Saucedo, HR Program Manager: Building an Inclusive and Diverse Culture from the Top Down

women in tech hr

By Editorial Team

As part of the first generation in her family to be born and raised in the U.S., Liz Saucedo, HR program manager at Synopsys, has had to break down cultural and generational barriers to get to where she is today. From watching her Ukrainian mother leave everything behind to work a 9 to 5 in America to challenging her own biases around gender roles in the workforce, Liz has picked up a slew of knowledge and accomplishments throughout her decade-long career in human resources.

As part of our series of articles commemorating International Women’s Day, we recently sat down with Liz to highlight her accomplishments and pick her brain on what it takes to truly implement inclusion and diversity initiatives in the workplace. Read on to learn more about what inspired Saucedo’s interest in human resources, what her day-to-day looks like, her vision for executing a successful inclusion and diversity campaign, and her advice for upcoming HR professionals.

Q: Can you walk us through your career journey and what inspired you to pursue a career in human resources?

A: I’ve always had a passion for working with people. I went to school for business management and didn’t know how I wanted to use my degree, but I found it incredibly gratifying to interact with and help others. Human Resources seemed like the next logical step. I started in a recruiting position and I loved it – I knew I had found my calling. I wanted to use my skills to make a more significant impact and built my career working for tech companies across Silicon Valley, where I noticed a trend: most hires were predominantly from the same demographic. This sparked my interest in diversity and university hiring. I realized hiring one or two historically underrepresented individuals wouldn’t move the needle in terms of inclusion, and most underrepresented candidates didn’t have post-graduate qualifications due to their high price tag. It wasn’t a level playing field, and people weren’t offered the same opportunities. Hiring early career candidates and those straight from college proved to be a good alternative to bridging that inclusion and diversity (I&D) gap by helping people build a career in a field that would otherwise be difficult to pursue.

Q: What does your day-to-day look like as Synopsys’ HR I&D program manager?

A: There’s a lot of moving pieces to my job. One of my main roles is creating different programs and employee resource groups (ERG) to give people the opportunity to collaborate, learn, and professionally develop their skills in areas they are interested in. It’s very important to build an organization-wide culture that respects and values a sense of community. There is a strong undertone to “leave your troubles at home” in corporate America, meaning we’re conditioned to focus solely on work while at our jobs. I’m a strong advocate for making people feel like they are a part of something and can express themselves freely. Our programs at Synopsys reflect this; we recognize our diversity and believe that our understanding of others enriches us. Part of my day-to-day job is to ensure that our employees and collaborators have this safe space to feel represented and valued. Some of our latest programs include five ERGs dedicated to our LGBTQ+, women in technology, LatinX, Black, and South Asian communities. One doesn’t need to belong to these communities to be part of the programs. We encourage our entire workforce to participate in the spaces they feel most connected to so that we continue expanding our knowledge and appreciation for others. As part of my role, I also actively contribute to our GEM Fellowship program, where we cover higher education costs for students and underrepresented individuals to help them kickstart their careers at Synopsys as well as help organize different conferences and I&D celebrations year-round.

Q: You recently co-founded Synopsys’ Global Pride ERG. Can you tell us more about the program’s objectives, vision, and achievements thus far?

A: As a born and raised San Franciscan and as someone with family in the LGBTQ+ community, this is a topic that hits close to home. At Synopsys, our programs usually include a leadership team, and each year an executive sponsor co-leads each program. After the launch of our Global Pride program, which aims to provide a space for community members and allies to interact and engage in, I immediately volunteered to be on the leadership team. It felt natural; it’s something I’m very passionate about. I was lucky to have been selected, and I now co-lead the program with my colleagues Maatia Rickard, senior manager, resource management, and Martin Tobias, senior manager, data science. Since our launch in September, over 100 members have joined our group from all corners of the world. We’ve heard feedback from employees who have been at Synopsys for several years who are thrilled to be a part of a group where they can be themselves and share their unique experiences. It’s incredibly gratifying. Hearing these comments only encourages us to continue pushing our boundaries and build more programs that bring us closer – as coworkers and, more importantly, as humans.

Q: Who are some individuals that have mentored you throughout your career? Did you have any HR role models growing up?

A: My mother was my role model growing up. I’m a first-generation immigrant raised by a single mother who emigrated from Ukraine to pursue a better life, working as an accountant in America. Ever since I was little, this idea of gender roles in the workforce was constantly conveyed to me: men worked in sales or engineering and women worked in HR or accounting. Ironically, that’s why I ended up working in HR. Still, this embedded belief only pushed me to challenge my own convictions and start a larger conversation around the gender gap in corporate America. I saw my mom struggle to balance working a corporate job and raising two kids independently. In hindsight, coupled with my rebellious nature, I think this only pushed me further to make an impact on lessening this gap. HR was a natural path to achieve this. I’ve met countless people who have had a lasting effect on me throughout my career. I don’t necessarily think mentorship is the only way to grow and develop in your career. Personally, some of the one-off interactions or conversations I’ve had with strangers where they share their personal experiences, backgrounds, and circumstances have left a mark on me beyond what any mentor has. I think these everyday life experiences fuel growth, both professionally and personally.

Q: In your experience, what are some of the elements that help make an I&D program successful?

A: Leadership that buys into it. I&D isn’t a one-person job; it takes a village to implement inclusion and diversity in a workplace. Leaders can’t just talk the talk; their actions need to follow. The past couple of years has only proven this further. Movements like Black Lives Matter have fueled extensive conversations among business leaders to implement I&D strategies and enrich their cultures for long-term success. Unfortunately, many companies commit to bringing in more diverse hires only to fill a quota and remain competitive. It’s refreshing to see companies like Synopsys recognize the vast difference between wanting diversity and needing it. Investing in the right resources and having that belief system trickle from the top-down is what makes a real difference in a successful I&D program.

Q: The tech industry, especially the field of semiconductors, is known to have a large gender gap. What are some of the challenges that the industry still needs to overcome or address to become truly inclusive? How much of this is HR’s role?

A: In my opinion, this has very little to do with Human Resources. As part of our role, we can certainly strive to find diverse candidates, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s imperative to build a diversity-minded culture from the very top of the food chain. I&D has to be a joint effort among all colleagues. Hiring diverse candidates is only a tiny part of it; we must make sure we are constantly ridding ourselves of our own biases to generate an inclusive environment where people want to stay and grow. Providing the right resources, opportunities, and benefits to encourage more I&D can go a long way in addressing the gender gap, and I think having these in place is a direct reflection of a company walking the talk.

Q: What advice would you give to budding HR women professionals looking to enhance their organizations’ I&D strategies?

A: I&D is a relatively new field within Human Resources. Specializing in this wasn’t a dedicated career path 10 years ago – it might have been an element to keep in mind, but not necessarily a focal point. As the field evolves, I think it’s important for HR professionals to push themselves to learn from others, especially those from different backgrounds. The best way to learn diversity is by doing it firsthand and becoming immersed in others’ cultures and beliefs. Don’t be afraid of not always having something to contribute – go to seminars, conferences, and your community’s weekend gatherings. Talk to strangers. Learning the experiences of those from different backgrounds than you can be some of the most enlightening and eye-opening conversations of your personal and professional life. Learn from others’ life experiences and use that knowledge to make a difference in your workplace. Our uniqueness only brings us closer and adds value to those around us.

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