The STEM Gap:
The U.S. demographics are changing Latinx student population rapidly growing. There are thousands of reports stating the lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in the workforce and there is no surprise that national attention has focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates. Latinx enrollment has increased with many Latinx choosing STEM upon entry; however, fail to persist to graduate in these degrees. A problem to this is due to the lack of representation of Latinx in STEM majors that many students experience the imposter syndrome, they feel they are in a place they are not supposed to be or a place that is not for them. Latinas in STEM fields are lacking. Latinas outnumber the number of males in postsecondary enrollment and graduation, yet few enroll and even fewer graduate in STEM fields.
Family and cultural values have a strong influence on young Latinxs to pursue a career in STEM. As the Latinx culture has a strong emphasis placed on family unity and reinforces it by the importance of providing emotional, physical, and material security. Young Latinx can strive through a STEM career through family support and encouragement for their persistence. However, Latinx parents and families are often unable to support their children with academics, financial aid information, and the emotional support they need to get through to finish a career in STEM.
In the United States, Latinas make up 2% of the STEM workforce (NSF, 2015). We want to create a space women empowerment in STEM.
The power of role models is undervalued. America Rodriguez, in her own life, found inspiration to pursue engineering during Hermanas: Diseña Tu Futuro Conference. The conference provides a supportive environment where young Latinas can interact with successful Latinas already in STEM careers, explore technological careers, and receive encouragement to attend college and ultimately to pursue a STEM career or advanced education. America was fascinated to be surrounded by many successful Latinx engineers for the first time and was the moment she told herself she wanted to be like them.
Resilience is exemplified by America as attending high school she was one of the only girls in her engineering electives during all four years. And now, through her career, she has often been the sole Latina in a room. Being the only Latina in a room is a challenge at first, but if you stay resilient then it will become normal. After all, any STEM major is about staying resilient to yourself because challenges will arise, and if things don’t work you just have to stay resilient. For America, it is important for girls to have role models in STEM as empowered women can empower other women by weakening the self-thoughts of being the “only one.” And to stay resilient plus persistent.