Rich Rosalez: From Navigating Challenges to Championing Equality
Samsung is continuing to make progress on our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey towards driving meaningful change. And we want to spotlight the DEI champions within our organization that have been and continue to be instrumental in enabling us to make an impact and helping to create a rich sense of belonging where everyone can thrive.
Timed to Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the history and contributions of the U.S. Hispanic and Latino communities, we sat down with Rich Rosalez, Vice President of Legal, a member of our DEI Council, an Executive Sponsor and member of the Unidos Employee Resource Group (ERG) and recent recipient of D CEO’s 2023 Corporate Counsel Awards for Champion of Diversity. Here’s what he had to say about DEI…
1. What obstacles have you overcome as a Mexican-American man in the technology industry?
I would attribute obstacles such as prejudices or low expectations more to the legal professional and my experience as a lawyer, rather than the tech industry. Many times, people have assumed I am not a lawyer and subsequently diminished my job status in doing so. It is obvious to me that this judgment is rooted in my appearance, and that my position as a lawyer or executive did not align with their preconceived expectations. No one considered the possibility that I might be a CEO; instead, they assumed that I might work in the mailroom, serve as a paralegal or support staff, or even mistaken me for a criminal defendant in a courthouse, rather than identifying me as a corporate client or the arguing attorney. It is unfortunate, and given that it has happened to me and many of my peers, I am certain it happens to others as well.
2. How have you seen diversity efforts progress in the workplace during your career?
I do not recall much of any diversity efforts in the workplace when I began my first job in NYC. This started to change in the early 2000s as underrepresented groups increasingly realized the importance of networking and support for their career development, and their growing numbers played a pivotal role in facilitating this change. Affinity and employee resource groups began to form, and they thrived once they received corporate support. Diversity efforts have exploded in recent years and corporate commitments have taken them to a new level, so the progress has been substantial.
3. Can you share a little about what’s shaped your passion for creating a more equitable workplace?
This is somewhat difficult to answer because there are so many factors involved. I grew up in an area where minorities were subjected to overt racism, and these experiences deeply ingrained in me a strong commitment to equality and justice. My passion, rooted in these experiences, is further nurtured through my study of history and self-reflection on ways I can contribute to helping underrepresented groups.
Sadly, I have encountered prejudice everywhere I have lived, and it has become apparent that education and social status never fully insulate you against attempts to marginalize. I strive to push back against these regressive forces because I am in a position to do so. My goal is to contribute in any way I can to elevate others, lift as I climb, open doors, and pay it forward. If I can make the workplace more equitable, create opportunities, educate people, foster understanding and tolerance, or reduce biases and their intended and unintended consequences, I should. I must. I see it as my duty, a responsibility owed to those who came before me and those who will follow.
4. Do you believe that diverse and inclusive teams are the engines of innovation?
Absolutely. Innovation emerges when ideas are challenged and norms are reshaped to approach tasks in a new way. This happens more readily within a group of people with varied viewpoints and perspectives. Such diversity arises from different backgrounds, upbringings, educational experiences, and life journeys. Studies have consistently demonstrated that diverse groups are more innovative, agile, and capable of addressing challenges than their non-diverse counterparts. Homogenous groups, on the other hand, tend to suffer from complacency and groupthink. Thus, diversity fuels and propels innovation.
5. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?
I think the answer is partly in the question: take action. Do something. Education is important. Take the time to learn from others, especially those with different backgrounds and experiences. Take the time to read books or watch documentaries from different perspectives. Challenge your beliefs and biases, and introspect on the reasons behind your views on certain people, customs, religions, and more. We all have biases, but not everyone recognizes them or modifies their behavior. Similarly, we often adopt views from our family and friends, and they may not always be well-informed. Seek opportunities to educate yourself and contribute to others’ growth and well-being.