Bloomberg Línea — It’s not only about Pride month. “We should not be rainbow washing,” says Nico Barawid, CEO at Casai, a short-term rental, Sonder-like startup focused on Latin America. “Companies try to use this month to update their logos with rainbow colors but then don’t do anything else. More enduring than changing your logo is making sure your human resources policies are inclusive,” said Barawid, in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.
The executive says that companies should include benefits for a same-sex partner and that inclusive HR policies attract a larger pool of candidates, which is also good for the business. “Discriminating on any basis excludes a potential source of talent. It is a business impact, not just a culture or diversity impact, but a business impact, because you are systematically excluding a group of people.”
Before leading their respective companies, Barawid and Gerry Giacomán, CEO of the corporate cards provider Clara, met in San Francisco and started dating. “Gerry had started a company before he went to business school, and so he had entrepreneurship in his background. In many ways, he was the one that pushed me to be a venture-backed entrepreneur,” said Barawid.
They moved to Mexico City together and Casai was born in 2019, a year before Clara. As the tables turned, Barawid pushed Giacomán to join the entrepreneurial path and launch the fintech. “There is a lot of encouragement for each other’s careers,” he said.
Support to take the leap
Barawid started his career as an associate at Boston Consulting Group in 2013, his first job out of college. “I was totally open during recruitment and on the first day I opened my laptop at BCG there was a very open email, saying welcome to BCG and welcome to the pride group. From day one I’ve been supported by mentors, bosses, and the work environment,” he said.
Living in San Francisco, a very open city, when he founded Casai moving to Mexico, Barawid says he didn’t think that should be a part of his identity that he should hide. “I started from day one as the CEO totally myself and I know in many ways that I came from a position of privilege to do that. Being myself from day one has influenced the culture of diversity in Casai. And for me that opened my eyes like, wow I’m actually in Latin America, where you know… obviously, Mexico City and Sao Paulo are very progressive cities but still in Latin America we have to build a workplace leading the region in diversity.”
Barawid says that as the CEO he already feels pressure to deliver high numbers for shareholders, and as part of the community, he feels the pressure to make sure that he is not contributing to the kind of other discrimination that maybe people have experienced in other workplaces.
“A lot of people are nervous about starting entrepreneurship. They don’t know what the future holds, and that is especially true for underrepresented groups that tend to have very high standards for themselves and try to prove themselves to the family, and that often can take them to pull the trigger of making a big step. Entrepreneurs in the LGBTQ+ community and other underrepresented communities should just make the jump and there will be a lot of support on the other side for diverse entrepreneurs.”
According to Barawid, Casai embraces diversity from the beginning. “I believe that this is one of the factors responsible for our significant numbers, even in the initial phase”. The company is 52% male, 47% female, 1% non-binary and 23% LGBTQIA+ people.