Hispanics are 20% of the population and only 7% of them are in STEM
Latinas are one of the fastest-growing groups of girls and women in the US. But they have a lower rate of participation and inclusion in STEM. Even after they become STEM professionals, overcoming all the odds & debunking the stereotypes, they continue to face challenges. Whether it is a lack of mentors & role models or it is low salaries and favoritism, Latinas have been struggling twice as hard and working twice as hard as other women (quadruple the rate compared to men) in STEM.
“Latina women are below minorities. They are treated as outsiders. Their achievements are undermined, and their status is still questionable no matter what they do. When you see them on the top or even in the mid-level somewhere, know that they have struggled through the years to be where they are right now.”
DuringHispanic/ Latinx Heritage Month, let’s discuss some barriers faced by Latinas in STEM to show that we honor their struggle and we know it is about time we do something to remove the discriminatory barriers they encounter:
As I always like to say, the hard time for people of color starts even before they are selected. Due to some representation in Hollywood, Latinas are seen as hypersexualized women who pose a fertility threat. This means that even before they are hired, companies tend to perceive them as a risk. Latinas’ fertility is considered as a hindrance in their position in the organization and the role they have secured.
For every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns, they earn or receive 54 cents, which means they are hit with one of the hardest wage gaps for women. This means they lose up to $1,135,440 throughout a 40-year career. All this alongside the fact that they must go through extensive questioning, give strong references, and tolerate a rigorous check to ensure they are the right fit for the position.
Even after all this struggle, they still won’t be hired on the same level as their white, male (even female) US-citizen counterparts and will have to prove their worth at every level and stage of their career.
PROVE, PROVE, PROVE IT AGAIN...
Latinas in STEM still have a questionable status. Their successes and expertise are discounted at every point. It is assumed that they won’t be able to cut it. They are invisible in their workplaces and are isolated in all important matters and decisions. More often than not, they are alienated because of their race and color, because most of the time they are the only or one out of the two or three similar people in the room.
Their sense of belonging is constantly taken away because 1- they are Latina, and 2- they are women. They have no support or help. Latinas are given tasks that are the hardest, so there are more chances for them to fail. Even after juggling with the biases, they must prove their worth all over again, one task after another.
THE RISKY ROAD
“Latinas are required to behave in a masculine way to be seen as competent but are expected to be feminine to be considered likable.”
The situation for Latinas is as hard as it was to understand the above statement. They are walking on the tightrope where they have to juggle between being masculine enough or feminine enough for the people around them. They are expected to follow commands and are discouraged from speaking their minds directly. They are asked to damp down their ambitions and keep their opinions in check, even if they are one of the most experienced in the room. If they are open, direct, assertive, and outspoken, they face ostracism. Latinas have to take on job roles and responsibilities in a masculine manner but ask for a favor and help in a feminine way. They are always juggling tasks, responsibilities, how to react, and what to say. There is always a need to mask their identity and change into another role according to the need.
LACK OF MENTORS
It wouldn’t take a lot for anyone to understand that Latinas are the most unfavorable when it comes to mentoring and professional help. They do not have the same race colleagues or seniors in the workplace most of the time. But they do not get assistance from anyone else either. The lack of identification with others and little to no mentoring leads to even more isolation. They aren’t provided with apt support. The added pressure of achieving more because of their minority status only adds to the problem.
If they do not have the same race mentor, it is unlikely they will have someone to mentor them. The feeling of being alone and unable to relate to others creates a lot of problems and issues for these women and their well-planned career aspirations.
“We need to realize that Latinas are working twice as hard as other women and almost four times the same number as men. After all this, their representation in the C-suite, higher levels, and even entry-level positions is drastically low in STEM. The lag isn’t in the talent. The lag is in hiring and retaining them. It is about time; we strive to change that!”