An advocate for equity

Rico Mariani (BMath ’88) knows how challenging the tech industry can be - and even more so for women and members of other underrepresented groups. As part of his personal commitment to inclusion and equity, he created scholarships to encourage Waterloo students in these groups.

By Beth Bohnert Office of Advancement

Growing up, Rico Mariani saw the struggles women face in the workplace. He remembers how his mother had to fight to receive the same compensation as her male co-workers.

Today, Rico remains painfully aware of the everyday challenges - and sometimes, outright dangers - faced by women, people of colour and members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

"I have some sense of the hardships people face because they have trusted me enough to share how they experience the world. In some things, I can relate. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and I was bullied as a child. But it’s not the same. The bullying ended when I became an adult. For many people, the harassment never ends."

His awareness turned to action in 2014 when actress Emma Watson launched the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign, aimed at enlisting men and boys in the fight for gender equality. Spurred by Watson’s speech, Rico - by then a senior software engineer at Microsoft - began sponsoring female colleagues, promoting their talents and offering career support.

The scholarship aided me financially, as I have two siblings in university who are still dependent on my family income. I am glad that I can help relieve my family financially.

YITI JIANG, Scholarship recipient

And he didn’t stop there. Now at Facebook, Rico remains committed to creating a more diverse and equitable tech industry. That’s why he has established three scholarships that support Waterloo math and computer science students who are female, Black and Indigenous, or are building inclusivity by advancing 2SLGBTQ+ initiatives.

Yiti Jiang is one of the people benefiting from Rico’s investment. The third-year student received the Rico Mariani Women in Computer Science Scholarship. "My parents are proud that someone recognized my ability. The scholarship also aided me financially, as I have two siblings in university who are still dependent on my family income. I am glad that I can help relieve my family financially."

Rico knows that an award can make all the difference in allowing an individual to attend university. But he hopes the impact of his support will reach even further.

 "Only one person receives the scholarship at a time, but 100 people might learn about it. I hope the other 99 realize ’Hey, there’s someone looking out for us who would like to see us succeed. And if one person thinks we belong then there are others.’"


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