STEM workforce in the US
In 2019, the STEM labor force represented 23 percent of the total US workforce. However, despite being one of the biggest drivers of economic growth, STEM’s racial and ethnic gaps are not shrinking. And this unevenness can be most widely seen in the lack of support when it comes to making opportunities available to the Hispanic and Latino population in the US. This racial disparity in STEM is palpable both from an education and job point of view.
of the U.S. STEM workforce identifies as Hispanic or Latino--less than the representation of Asian-Americans and African-Americans
of the U.S. workforce across all occupations identifies as Hispanic or Latino, further underscoring the disproportion in STEM
Disparities in education
According to the Pew Research Center report of 2021, only 15 percent of students graduating with a bachelor's degree were Hispanic. And of that number, less than 12 percent graduated with a STEM-related degree.
Several factors contribute to fewer Latino students enrolling in STEM courses, from lack of educational support to underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds. As the pandemic ravaged its way through the U.S. and much of the world turned to remote work, it was discovered that nearly 40 percent of Latino households did not have internet access at home, and 32 percent did not own a computer.
When Hispanic and Latino students do graduate, they are often then saddled with a myriad of other barriers, including financial constraints, access to transportation, and the biases, racism, and discrimination experienced in the workplace.
Challenges to bridging the gap
- Lack of exposure of Hispanic students to STEM at the K-12 levels.
- Underrepresentation of Hispanic students in undergraduate and graduate STEM programs.
- Hispanics continue to have the highest dropout rate in the country and trail other ethnic groups in obtaining a 4-year college degree
- Lack of Hispanic role models for students to look up to.
- Less than half of Hispanic high school graduates enroll in a four-year university program further decreasing odds that they will major in a STEM field.
The societal benefits of increasing Latino representation in STEM
A diverse STEM workforce will make way for newer and innovative perspectives, resulting in more creative solutions that can help improve the lives of people from all sections of society.
Hispanics are the second-oldest ethnic group in the United States after Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. Their contributions to nation-building date back centuries, yet almost 77 percent of Latinos are unaware of the contributions that Hispanics and Latinos have made to the growth and development of the United States.
It is impactful to see people that look like you and share similar experiences as you in elevated and esteemed positions. It can spark the imagination. It encourages challenging what you believe you are capable of.
A lack of representation has the opposite effect and results in people losing confidence and feeling despondent and ultimately not pursuing their aspirations.
Amplifying the voices of Latino scientists, engineers, and other leaders in STEM is imperative.
Famous Latinos in STEM
A mechanical engineer and astronaut, he was the first Hispanic to be involved in seven prestigious NASA space shuttle missions, like Columbia and Endeavor, to name a few.
Originally from Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Novello was the first woman to serve as Surgeon General of the United States--the nation's top health official.
A physicist and Nobel Laurate, his research included particle physics, nuclear physics and radar.
Bernardo Alberto Houssay
A physiologist and Nobel Laureate, he was honored for his research on the role played by pituitary gland hormones in carbohydrate metabolism.
Carlos Juan Finlay
An epidemiologist, who discovered the role of mosquitoes in the transmission of yellow fever.
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