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Hispanic Heritage

How to Engage Latinos to Diversify the STEM Workforce

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that by 2044 more than half of the U.S. population will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. But despite being the fastest growing demographic, Latinos make up less than 10 percent of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.

With STEM companies looking for diverse talent, there is an opportunity for Latinos to both increase their earning potential and address the tremendous need for diversity to help the United States remain competitive globally.

The benefits

According to the Child Trends Data Bank, 25 percent of children are Hispanic and 31 percent of Hispanic youth lived in poverty. Furthermore, Hispanic youth are three times more likely to live in poverty compared to white youth. These statistics indicate an opportunity to change lives through increased STEM awareness. STEM careers facilitate upward economic mobility that help families and ultimately build stronger communities.

Students graduating with a four-year humanities degree earn a median of $40,000. However, students with a two-year STEM degree such as nuclear technology can earn a median salary of over $80,000. By the time the non-STEM major enters the workforce after graduation, the nuclear technician would have already earned $160,000.

The power of mentors

With STEM being an economic equalizer at the core of our global competitiveness and innovation, we cannot afford to leave Latinos behind. Mentors and hands-on learning play a key role in educating Latinos about the possibilities of what a STEM career can be, the types of coursework that is required for a STEM career and how STEM can change the world. Mentors can also encourage persistence in spite of academic or workplace challenges and provide valuable career advice.

From parents to teachers to corporations, it is everyone’s responsibility to recruit, develop and retain more Latinos in STEM. We must all encourage curiosity and innovation, while also embracing STEM as a viable career option.

The beauty of STEM is that it is all around us; it’s in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the houses we live in. Its pervasiveness allows us to meet students where they are. The fundamentals of football and dance are based in physics.  If you see children that like makeup, encourage them to learn more about chemistry and chemical engineering. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s inspire the next generation of diverse STEM professionals and accomplish this goal by working together.

Talmesha Richards, Ph.D., Chief Academic and Diversity Officer, STEMconnector/Million Women Mentors, [email protected]

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