Nina Vaca’s journey from Ecuadorian immigrant to transformative tech entrepreneur is the kind of story that is part of America’s rich social and economic tapestry.
Even more so, Vaca knows that continuing her legacy includes paying her success forward to a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, particularly women of color. Vaca, one of the headliners in the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference March 30-31, has made a significant impact as a global business leader and philanthropist since founding and leading Pinnacle Group in 1996.
Vaca, who will make her second consecutive appearance at the conference, this time as an emcee, says she wants to ensure that her success highlights the importance of immigrants to America’s success.
“As a Latina entrepreneur, I am living proof of the ways that immigrants can make positive contributions to this country,” she says. “I’ve been blessed many times to be the first Latina at the table, but I don’t want to be the only Latina.”
That’s why Vaca takes opportunities like the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference, a national gathering of CEOs, academics and other thought leaders, to speak to a new generation of leaders.
“I believe that true success is opening doors for others and expanding opportunities for all women and minorities,” she says. “I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to invest in people and what motivates me is helping the next generation to reach even greater heights than we ever dreamed.”
Vaca says she realizes now that she could have relied more on the support of fellow women entrepreneurs when she started Pinnacle Group. Now, as the head of a company named America’s fastest growing woman-owned business from 2015-18, she says she is in a better position to appreciate how far she has come.
“Early on, I wish I had known that as an entrepreneurial woman, I was not alone,” Vaca says. “It is just a fact that there will always be challenges, but you can’t let these things derail you, instead the struggle must be your teacher as you learn to persevere. It is at your hardest moments that you find your inner strength and where we learn to bend, but not break.”
That resilience is why Vaca says she thinks Philadelphia is such a strong location for a national conference on diversity, equity, and inclusion. At a time when companies are increasingly trying to figure out best practices in hiring and retaining workers of diverse backgrounds, Vaca says the city sets the tone for creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion across all sectors.
“As a business leader, I have seen firsthand how diversity and inclusion fosters a more creative and innovative workforce,” she says. “When everybody has the opportunity to bring their best self to this country, we all help create a better America.
“I think this conference serves as an example for other cities searching for ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own communities,” she adds. “There is something poetic about being in Philadelphia, which played such an instrumental role in the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and bringing great minds together to navigate a path towards upholding the promise of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
With a rapidly growing Latino population, Philadelphia is becoming home to a growing number of entrepreneurs of color, especially among immigrants. Vaca says the city can incubate the growth of minority and women-owned businesses, and invest in social entrepreneurship as a way of sustaining equitable growth. She adds that the presence of diverse industries also helps to create an ecosystem that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The cities that attract diverse entrepreneurs all have these best practices in common: they actively recruit industry leading corporations; they create infrastructures that are friendly to business; they foster a culture of technology and innovation; and they create collaborations between businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and the centers for arts and culture,” she says. “These partnerships are incredibly important to contributing to the economic development that fuels entrepreneurial ventures. That is why it is important for corporations to be intentional with their investment and impact in order to lay a foundation that encourages the next generation of entrepreneurs to stay in or come to a city to work, live, and innovate.”
Vaca cites Comcast as an example of a Philadelphia-based company that invests in a diverse workforce, noting it has “built a best-in-class diversity and inclusion framework that is measurable and accountable.” She adds that the city’s success can be emulated across the country.
“Any city can transform itself into a hub if it is willing to adapt and look toward the future for ways to offer opportunities to both your best and brightest residents and those looking for a place to grow,” she says.
For more information about the Philadelphia Diversity & Inclusion Conference, and to register, visit diphilly.com