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Why Hispanics Are Critical to the Future of STEM

Raquel Tamez

CEO, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers(SHPE)

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills are critical in the global economy. STEM jobs are growing faster than other fields and typically pay more. 

STEM professionals make the world a better place. Scientists figure out how the world works, and engineers use that information to design new things and improve the way things are done. 

Hispanics comprise 16 percent of the U.S. population (age 18-64) but only 8 percent of its STEM workforce. The future workforce will be more Hispanic. We make up 23 percent of the U.S. population younger than 18, while 89 percent of those nearing retirement are non-Hispanic. 

The future of STEM in America relies on more Hispanics entering these fields. 

Recruitment efforts

As someone who leads a team working to draw and support more Hispanics in STEM, I believe aspects of our culture position us for success in these fields. 

We have an incredibly strong work ethic, we are persistent, we are resourceful and creative, and we are strong collaborators with a competitive spirit. Also, Latinas, in particular, are known to be early adopters of technology. These shared characteristics all support STEM career success. 

Many people talk about the STEM pipeline. I’m not fond of that term. Pipelines are hard to change. If you find yourself outside of the pipe, how do you get in without finding an opening or changing the pipe? 

For me, it must be a pathway. You can join a pathway anywhere along it — you can travel on it in many ways, and it’s easier to redirect if needed or wanted. There must be more ways for people with STEM interest to join in and pursue these careers at any stage of their life no matter their situation.

Room for error

Finally, we must eliminate fear of pursuing a STEM path — fear of failure, fear of not being smart enough, fear of debt. We must shift to a growth mindset and make the investment. If I go to college for a lesser paying career, it will take more of my future income to pay my student loans back. 

Strong salaries make STEM worth the investment in ourselves, for our families, and for our community. Ultimately, Hispanics in STEM will not only support but will accelerate the change we need to make the world a better place for us all.

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