Inspiring more Diversity in STEM – Stories from Latinx Members Creating Change

From teaching kids how to code, to helping students graduate without college debt, there are many Latinx who are doing incredible things to bring more diversity into STEM. Thanks to their work, they are helping our hispanic community be exposed to role models and follow these careers.

We hope their stories are inspiring:

Meet Zaira Cruz (she/her)

She is a first-generation Latina senior software engineer currently working in telecommunications and AI at General Motors. Zaira is originally from Mexico. After being briefly introduced to computer science in high school, she went on to pursue engineering as a major in college and saw firsthand the disparity that exists within STEM. To pay for college she joined a company that taught kids how to code, and soon grew a passion to advocate not only for more female figures within technology but also for Latinos in general. She founded LatinXCoders to help empower kids with the tech skills needed so that they have a better chance at reaching their goals. LatinXCoders not only advocates for kids, but for parents to understand the impact that these skills can have on their kids’ future. Zaira is passionate not only to keep sharing this knowledge but also about mentoring the next generation of engineers.

What inspired you to create LatinXCoders?

I come from a family that always cultivated in me the importance of education but who didn’t know about programming and much less majoring in it. However, during college, I worked at a company that taught kids how to code. I taught kids as young as 6 years old. One thing that I noticed all the students shared here was that at least one of their parents was involved in engineering as a profession. I also noticed that these courses, although valuable, were expensive for an average family. And furthermore, there was little to no minority representation. All of this inspired me to question, why not minorities? Why not average families whose parents might not be engineers but who also understand the importance of education? And so, latinxCoders was born. Amidst a pandemic and after having worked in the field for 2 years, I launched a web platform whose mission is to raise awareness and share this knowledge.

Why do you think it is important to see more Latinas in Engineering and STEM?

Diversity within any field is important as it integrates different perspectives among people from different backgrounds. But diversity and specifically female minorities participation is important as both engineering and STEM are tools that are shaping our world daily. The Student Research Foundation found that Hispanic women represented 7% of the total workforce, but just 2% of STEM workers in 2018. And we have to understand, our perspectives as Latinas is necessary now, not only to help open the doors for the future generation, but also to have a say in how this technology affects our communities, and because our talent and experiences have so much untapped value within innovation.

You can learn more about LatinXCoders here.

 

Next, we would like to introduce Michelle Tovar-Mora (she/her)

Michelle is a first-generation Latina college graduate currently working as a Mechanical Engineer in the Power Sector. She earned a bachelor’s and master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from California State University, Los Angeles. She is passionate about her career and hopes to inspire more women and Latinos to join the STEM fields by sharing her personal experience. She also motivates women to not be scared of building a family while building their careers.

“We don’t have to choose between motherhood and our careers; we can be both, mothers and career-driven women.”

We asked Michelle: What inspired you to choose Engineering as your career path?

If you saw my career roadmap one would automatically assume that I’ve always had it all figured out and I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was little. The truth lies far from that. Growing up in a low-income community I didn’t have access to many resources and quite frankly I didn’t even know what engineering was until I got to Cal State LA.  After getting involved with various student organizations such as SWE and SHPE, I got exposed to different engineering disciplines which sparked my curiosity in engineering. Not knowing a single engineer growing up and being the first of my family to attend college made this journey quite difficult but not impossible.

Why do you think it is important to see more Latinas in Engineering & STEM? 

To read this article in its entirety, at alltogether.swe.org,  click here.

 

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