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CNET en Español's first anniversary and the state of diversity in the tech industry

Commentary: Marking its first anniversary, CNET en Español brings light to the most influential and outstanding Latinos in an industry that could do much better when it comes to diversity.

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Apple is, by far, one of the companies in the tech industry with the most diverse staff; 11 percent of its employees are Latino. Apple

CNET en Español, CNET's Spanish-language sister site, turns 1 year old today.

As its managing editor, it's been an incredible journey. We have accomplished a lot as a team.

Sure, we cover product releases with the same zeal, professionalism and drive as our sister site in English. Actually, we are part of a big team that works together at tech conferences like CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

But one of the things that differentiates our coverage from CNET's is our focus on Latino talent in the tech industry.

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It might sound cliche -- "Latinos covering Latinos" -- but it goes deeper than that.

For starters, it was not easy to find them.

Throughout this year, big tech companies have been releasing their diversity numbers. The number of Latino employees in these companies is low: 4 percent in Facebook and Yahoo, and 3 percent in Google.

And they are even lower when we look at the percentages of Hispanic employees in technological posts: 3 percent in Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo, and 2 percent in Google.

Though the low numbers of Latinos in their ranks is not surprising, it does trigger a question: why? Finding an answer is key not only for the present but also for the future of the tech industry.

According to the CODE2040 foundation, by the year 2040, 42 percent of the U.S. population will be constituted by Latinos and African-Americans.

For this and other reasons we felt compelled to compile a list of the 20 Most Influential Latinos in Tech for the second straight year. The list includes professional men and women of all backgrounds, nationalities and expertise.

We include high-rollers like Marcelo Claure, the Bolivian who plans to spearhead Sprint's revival as its newly minted CEO, and Eddy Cue, of Cuban origin, who has been called Apple's Mr. Fix It.

We have entrepreneurs, like Spaniard Javier Agüera, who at 22 has already been involved in founding two boutique smartphone developers: Geeksphone and Blackphone. Guatemalan Luis von Ahn appears in the list again this year as Duolingo's CEO because of his continuous effort to offer free language lessons to everyone and, in particular, because of his most recent project to create a more affordable language certification exam than the ones currently available -- like TOEFL.

And we feature Noramay Cadena, the daughter of Mexican immigrants born in Los Angeles who as a single mother went to MIT and earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and two masters. She works at Boeing today. The rest of the members of the list are as impressive.

To see our full list, visit our coverage on CNET en Español (in Spanish, of course).

Why are these accomplishments so remarkable?

Based on the reporting by CNET en Español's Marta Franco and Claudia Cruz, we discovered that the reasons for the lack of Hispanics in the tech industry are wide and varied: education, economic status, culture, a meritocracy system embedded in the tech industry, and a sort of gender and ethnic discrimination.

Latinos are clearly a minority in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013, only 7 percent of science and engineering graduates at the university level are Hispanic.

"Latinos attend schools that have fewer resources. They are not exposed to these types of programs," says Jody Agius Vallejo, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Southern California. "Education is uneven, so from the very beginning they [Latino students] start out from a different place."

And, although, there are more and more programs aimed at teaching children computer science, they are expensive and their access is limited.

Immigration is another factor. A family who has less time in the U.S. would have more difficulties navigating the system and the network resources that can help further their children's education. Also, culture and tradition play a big role: the fact that most parents do not come from these fields of study places them at a disadvantage when their kids show promise and interest, simply because they do not have the information necessary to encourage these career choices. And, also, Latino parents tend to not push their daughters, in particular, to go to college, as they are still expected to mainly care for their family and children.

The technology industry functions in a sort of meritocracy, or what software engineer Carlos Bueno calls "mirrorcracy." Big tech companies, such as Facebook and Yahoo, tend to hire and promote employees who fit a certain mold, who adapt to the particular corporate culture specific to Silicon Valley.

That is, these companies tend to hire their friends, who have similar interests and background. Anyone who doesn't fit this mold would have a hard time entering and advancing in these companies and in this field. This may result in a sort of ethnic discrimination.

"Many would say that [Latinos and African-Americans] don't exist in the tech industry," says engineer Jennifer Arguello. "Well, you don't see them when you're not surrounded by them."

And this affects not only the hiring process, but also when the time comes to procure investments for startups.

"[Latinos] don't get support or financial backing," said Vivek Wadhwa, the Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance fellow at Stanford University. "And investors don't even answer their emails."

Though the road to more diversity in the tech industry appears long, the companies that have released their diversity figures have mapped out a way to address this issue. Companies such as Google and Facebook have backed tech education organizations such as CODE2040 and have offered scholarship to minority students.

"The release of their diversity numbers is a good thing," says Bueno. "But this doesn't mean anything if it doesn't turn into an annual tradition. That kind of commitment is needed."

It is a good start. And, in the meantime, we at CNET en Español will keep covering not only the best gadgets in the market but also our community, its success stories and how tech companies grapple to improve diversity in their ranks, making sure we bring light to these important issues with our best journalism.

With contribution from Marta Franco.