Hispanic Heritage Month and What it Means to be a Latino in STEM

Episode #52
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Today, September 15th, marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the culture, stories, and contributions of Latin-American citizens. Even though there’s a lot to celebrate, we still have a long way to go as hispanics are still underrepresented in many different areas, including STEM.

According to a report by the Student Research Foundation, hispanics are only 25% of the US student population, and they represent only 17% of the total workforce. However, when you specifically look at careers in STEM, they represent no more than 8% of the people in these fields, and the dropout rate of hispanics in STEM majors is among the highest ones in the entire country.

As a consequence of this, most hispanics struggle a lot when trying to build a career and a life. A different culture and a new language are the inevitable challenges they need to overcome, but being a minority really makes things way more problematic. They find it difficult to get a job because they come from outside the US, they do not have as many people they can relate to that understand their background and struggles. This makes them think they do not belong and that they don’t “have what it takes” to build a great life.

Another side effect of this underrepresentation is the huge and unutilized talent pool. Hispanics are the second largest ethnic group in the US, but their life struggles prevent them from going to college and later working on technical fields, such as those in STEM. These fields end up progressing way less than what they could due to a lack of diversity and knowledge.

Even though hispanic participation in the workforce is expected to grow to 22.4% by 2030 according to the report, Hispanic Heritage Month should not be the only period in which we work towards making opportunities equally available to everyone. Initiatives like Engineering Our Future, such as Girls in Civil and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, are working all year round to help these people navigate the difficulties of life as a hispanic STEM professional in the US.

Therefore, this episode is an introduction to a series dedicated to Latinos and Latinas in STEM. Over the course of a few weeks, we’ll be highlighting several hispanic people in STEM, as well as celebrating their work toward the cause, what they’ve accomplished so far, and how we can continue to work on it in the future.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • What is the Hispanic Heritage Month?
  • Why Does It Take Place Between 09/15 and 10/15 of Every Year?
  • Hispanics' Struggles as They Come Into the US
  • An Honest Opinion About a Life in STEM from a Latina Engineer Herself
  • The Unutilized Hispanic Talent Pool―Both Men and Women
  • Why Hispanics Have One of The Highest Dropout Rates From STEM Fields
  • Four Main Factors Explaining Why Hispanics are Underrepresented in STEM
  • Is Hispanic Representation Expected to Improve?
  • Are Hispanics Still Interested in a Career in STEM, Regardless of the Disparities?
  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers―An Organization for Hispanics
  • How Girls in Civil is Empowering Latinas in STEM
  • What Can We Do to Pave the Way for Future Hispanic Generations?

Resources

Hispanics & STEM Report – Student Research Foundation
Engineering Our Future #17 – Diana Iracheta
Engineering Our Future #14 – Fernando Ceballos
SHPE – Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
Girls in Civil Instagram (@girlsincivil)
EWB – Engineers Without Borders
SEI – Structural Engineering Institute
ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers

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Music by Jack Winders

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