(BPT) - Every year during Hispanic Heritage Month, the country honors and celebrates the contributions Latinos have made to this nation. From advancements in science, healthcare, civil and labor rights to leadership in government, military, entrepreneurship and business, the Hispanic community continues to have a profound and positive impact on our schools, our communities, our economy and our country. Nevertheless, they are still vastly underrepresented in many areas, particularly in Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) sectors.
There are three current realities to consider when it comes to Hispanics, Latinos and Latinx in the fields of STEM:
1. The U.S. Hispanic population is significant but doesn't have comparable representation in the tech market.
Technology continues to change how we work, live and learn, and it's an important driver of the world's economy. However, diversity gaps still exist across the industry, especially among the Latino population. They remain highly underrepresented in the STEM workforce - making up only 8% of STEM workers despite being the country's second-largest ethnic group. This divide is direr for women, with Latinas only holding 2% of STEM jobs in the U.S. even though women comprise 28.8% of the U.S. tech workforce. Higher education institutions and companies have a tremendous responsibility to support and encourage Hispanics and increase representation in the tech field.
2. Higher education has an opportunity to do more to encourage and support Hispanics.
Hispanic students are often the first in their families to pursue an education and attend college. Often, they face numerous barriers that make a traditional college experience even more difficult, such as trying to balance family and work responsibilities. When educational institutions support and prepare Hispanic learners and others from underrepresented communities to succeed in a world shaped by technological change, they have a better chance to prosper. Increasing diversity in the overall student population, hiring diverse faculty, providing scholarships, implementing tech-influenced offerings and flexible programming are ways that higher education is meeting students where they are.
DeVry University is a prime example of how higher education can nurture student success. With Hispanics accounting for 17% of its total student population, DeVry's education solutions include flexible programming, career services, and its NextGen Hispanics Scholars Program helps Latino students pursue a college education and advance in the workforce.
'I have experienced firsthand how education changes lives,' said DeVry University's Chief Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity Officer, Veronica Calderón. 'Our goal is to reduce educational disparities, close the gap and build a more diverse workforce. Our NextGen Hispanics Scholars Program provides access to numerous resources aimed to help Latinos thrive in tech careers.'
3. The tech industry has a role to play in fostering success, growth and opportunity for Latinos.
Diversity catalyzes new ways of problem solving and creative thinking - two keys to innovation. However, there's a misconception that you must have specific college degrees to gain the technical know-how to work in the industry. Oftentimes, all one needs is digital training, a certificate or micro-credentials to gain the skills required to advance in a tech-driven ecosystem.
Organizations in and outside of STEM have an immense opportunity to support Latino employees and drive a more equitable workplace by helping them acquire the education and skills needed for career progression. By investing in upskilling and reskilling programs for underrepresented talent, organizations can help lift a common barrier to their growth, gain access to a large pool of untapped talent and keep up with the pace of innovation.
Santa Clarita's former mayor and councilmember, Bill Miranda, has been on the leading edge of the high-tech industry for years. He recently spoke to a group of NextGen Hispanic Scholars and underscored the importance to making education accessible, affordable and equitable.
'Despite a projected growth in tech jobs, Latinos remain underrepresented in the tech field, and it's time to change that,' added Councilmember Bill Miranda. 'As a public servant, Air Force veteran and Latino in the tech industry, I know how important access to education, community resources and mentorship opportunities are for our community. We need diversity across the technology industry, and more Hispanics in tech careers that help to solve today's challenges.'
The more we support the education and careers of the Latino community, particularly in tech, the more innovation and growth we'll experience as a society. During Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, think about how you can support the next generation of Hispanics - whether professionally or personally.