Living your authentic self: Lessons learned by an Afro-Latina
Rosanna Durruthy has worked to live her authentic life and in turn, create workplaces where others can work and live to their full potential.
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This is the first of two articles. The second article can be found here.
As LinkedIn’s Global Head of Diversity Inclusion and Belonging, Rosanna Durruthy works towards an equitable workplace. But in learning how to support diversity, inclusion, and belonging, she first had to learn to live as her authentic self.
Born and raised Puertorriqueña and Cuban, as a gay Afro-Latina, Durruthy has found herself at an intersection of identities that has given her a unique perspective, many advantages, and a few challenges along the way.
“I grew up very proud of my Latina heritage,” Durruthy told AL DÍA in an interview. “It was something that my mother imbued in me at a very early age. And so I carry the pride of my parents in the pride of the cultures, the rich cultures that they come from [and] learned to speak Spanish at an early age.”
Durrruthy would learn early that as a bilingual Spanish-English speaker, many people would make assumptions about her from the way she looked and talked.
When she spoke fluent Spanish, her English speaking classmates would assume that she couldn’t understand them. Conversely, Spanish speakers would hear her speak fluent English and think she wasn’t able to speak Spanish.
Other times in the workplace, Durruthy would be singled out for compliments on how articulate she was. In contrast, her equally well spoken coworkers — who weren’t Latino or Black — had not been.
Durruthy recognized that people would make these assumptions about her and realized that by living her authentic self regardless of their presumptions, she could offer them a better understanding of her culture and who she was in the process.
But living as your authentic self comes with its own struggles and challenges. She described her own experiences with her culture as her identity being layered within it, though at times there was a lack of acceptance from her culture.
As a gay Latina, she had kept some things from her family, though she was surprised to find them eventually accepting of her.
In her career, she would meet few Latino leaders, but the ones she met would inspire her to continue and to take chances of being ‘first’ as she utilized her identity to dispel misconceptions about her culture and influence those she met to open doors for others.
“When I was early in my career… a real inflection point was having a performance review. My boss gave me an excellent review and he was telling me what a great professional I am,” Durruthy explained.
“And then he said that I was like a round ball: it was hard to get a handle on me, he didn't really know who I was. That was perhaps the first time that I recognized that I focused so much on being the person who did the work well; that I didn't let people get to know me personally, or get to know much about my background,” she continued.
This moment changed Durruthy’s approach to leadership and how she connected with her peers, but at the same time she acknowledges that this was only possible because she knew she could consider her boss an ally.
Durruthy holds that for people to be able to do their best work and live their authentic selves, they have to be safe first.
Whether this is through employee resource groups, connecting with other people like yourself, and having ways for communities to connect to, either in your workplace or beyond it.
“As a leader, it's been really important to understand that the relationships we form are the relationships that enable us to have trust not only in the work we're doing, but trust in the people we are,” Durruthy said.
“So fully accepting myself fully sharing myself and being authentically Latina, authentically Black, authentically gay, authentically a woman, just authentically Rosanna, gives me the comfort of knowing that I'm building relationships with people because I want to get to know them and I want them to get to know me, as well,” she continued.
This approach is one that she believes will pay huge dividends down the road.
She expects this approach will allow her to cultivate a workplace that promotes equality and allows for authentic living.
“Together, we're able to create results and outcomes and build teams, build organizations and build opportunity,” Durruthy said.