Latino Donor Collaborative: Latino Involvement in STEM Fields on the Rise

Administration May 2024 PREMIUM

The Latino Donor Collaborative, alongside the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, highlights the growing presence of Latinos in STEM fields, particularly in engineering and technology. This trend counters an impending shortage in engineering and tech fields, highlighting the need for support from corporations, academia, and government to sustain competitiveness.

The usual news flash is that the U.S. needs many more Hispanics, the fastest-growing segment of the population, to enter the much-in-demand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, if America is to stay competitive in the coming years.

However, the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC), a non-profit think tank, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) have issued the joint study “U.S. Latinos in Engineering and Tech Report in 2023,” that reveals Latinos are making progress  and showing increasing involvement in these fields.   

The LDC: Promoting Accurate Research on Latinos

The non-profit Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) has been a leader in initiating research in a variety of areas, including technology and journalism, that characterize the current state of Latinos in the U.S. It was launched in 2010 by a group of national Latino civic and business leaders, spearheaded by Henry Cisneros and Solomon (Sol) Trujillo. Cisneros is a national Latino leader, formerly mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, who has been involved in a score of Latino civic initiatives. Trujillo was CEO of Telstra and US West.

LDC is headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, and its CEO, Ana Valdez, has served on boards such as the LA Mayor’s Small Business Board, Green Leadership Trust, and Center for Early Education, displaying her versatility and scope. 

Its website describes its mission as “conducting vital research on the valuable contribution of U.S. Latinos in America and equipping leaders with the actionable data they need to drive the advancement of their organizations.”

Valdez described Latino Donor Collaborative as a think tank. “We create data. We focus on measuring and creating curated data that is important for decision makers, resource educators, and business leaders.”

Indeed, LDC’s goal is to advance Latinos’ role in American society, overcome negative Hispanic stereotypes, and grow the revenue of Latino markets. It has invested in developing fact-based data to advance the New Mainstream Economy and involve more Latino consumers, entrepreneurs, and workers. To that end, it has developed more than 48 original reports and research papers on these topics.

It partners with other organizations, such as SHPE, colleges, and businesses. For example, it is developing a study on the upward mobility of Latinos with Notre Dame University, and its 2023 report with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) shows how under-represented Latinos are in U.S. journalism.  

In conducting these research papers, LDC’s goal is to portray the Latino community as it really is, overcoming the many misinformed stereotypes. Too many people think most Latinos are poor, are mostly immigrants, and are prone to crime, which are all inaccurate, she pointed out.

Encouraging Trends: Latinos’ Growing STEM Involvement

The 2023 Latinos in Engineering and Tech Report stated that Latinos now comprise 9.5% of the engineering workforce, showing steady growth, though still under the 19% of Hispanics living in the U.S. as of 2022. Moreover, Hispanics’ growth in engineering education in the U.S. rose to 15.8%, closer to matching the proportion of Latinos in the U.S.

This report also revealed that an increasing number of Hispanics earning “master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering over the last 10 years grew significantly.” Indeed, the number of Latinos awarded master’s degrees in engineering grew from 4.2% in 2003 to 9.4% in 2021, more than doubling.  Engineering doctorates for Hispanics rose from 3.9% to 7.5% in that same period, also nearly doubling.

The report noted that the rising number of Latinos in engineering “counters the imminent shortage in the engineering workforce that threatens U.S. competitiveness and quality of life.” It also praised the role that SHPE played in promoting more Latino participation in STEM fields.

The study concludes that “U.S. Latinos are ready to play a pivotal role in driving growth within engineering, technology, and the fields most exposed to Artificial Intelligence (AI).”

What Drives Latino Progress in STEM?

Asked why involvement in science areas is on the rise for more Latinos, Valdez explained that several factors come into play. It started with the significant population growth through immigration that prevailed from 1980 to 2007. Then, Latino parents, who take pride in education, started encouraging their children to pursue higher education. Hence, this upward mobility contributed to more Hispanics attending college and gravitating toward the sciences. Finally, the Latino population skews younger than other segments, so more are attending college.

The Latino Donor Collaborative and SHPE also pointed out key ingredients contributing to the rising number of Latinos gravitating toward STEM careers, including: 1) The importance of role models and mentors, citing how 73% of Latinos said these role models are critical, 2) Improving quality education in STEM fields, which helps Latino overcome many obstacles, 3) Raising financial awareness and helping Latinos obtain scholarships to pay for undergraduate and graduate education, which raises the chances of success.

Recommendations for the Future

The study also urged a series of actions including: 1) Corporate foundations offering increased support for Latino STEM efforts, 2) Academia creating more assistance to help Latinos advance in STEM fields, 3) The government providing more financial support and incentives to Latinos to do well in engineering and science. 

If the number of Latinos is going to increase in the sciences, Valdez recommends three specific areas that need improvement: 1) Creating more role models in these fields, 2) Expanding the number of mentorships, 3) Improving mental health, since it is the number one reason why students drop out of school and college.

She’d like to see more tech companies welcoming Latinos, recruiting them, and retaining them. She recently participated in a job fair with scores of companies, such as Wal-Mart and J.P. Morgan Chase, looking to recruit talented minorities, but no Silicon Valley and tech companies there. “The tech industry has a tremendous under-reporting of Latinos in their industry; the only industry that is worse are media companies,” Valdez observed.

Why is attracting more Latinos to the sciences critical to the future of the U.S.? Valdez replied that 30% of the babies born in the U.S. today come from Hispanic families. “Imagine the effect on the workforce in the next 20 years. If we want to compete with China, there needs to be a majority of Latinos being educated”. Hence, she points out that tech companies need to “train and recruit Latinos” to help keep America competitive in the future.

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