Jazlyn Carvajal, Diana Albarrán Chicas, Cecilia Fernández, Kimberly Gonzales, Joanna Gonzalez, Desiree Lassiter, Maribel Mendoza, and Nidia Trejo make up the Latinas in STEM Board of Directors, an organization founded by 5 MIT alumnae looking to formalize the service work they were doing in their respective communities.
The founders of the organization are all first generation American women who have been the first in their families to attend college. They have careers in industry with a long track record of community service. The current board consists of professional Latina women who are interested in providing Latinas with mentorship, resources, and access to careers in STEM.
The stats around women in STEM aren’t great. And the barriers to entry for women of color are compounded. A lack of role models, lagging outreach, and overall limited parental awareness, leads to dismal numbers. So you’ve heard.
But with organizations like Latinas in STEM, founded in 2013, there is hope. And not only on the horizon.
Their goals include: inspiring young women to consider STEM careers, increasing the number of Latina women pursuing STEM careers, and creating a network that enables women in STEM to survive. Their programs include K-12 student and parent outreach, college student support, and professional development that enables their network to grow and reach more students.
It’s vital work that serves the community and world.
More from the Board of Directors below.
What is the most important step you took to get here?
The most important step was starting a dialogue among friends about the need in our communities and our desires to help our communities in a more formal matter. It was a simple Facebook group message sent among friends that eventually led to the formal organization of Latinas in STEM.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
There have been many challenges for us as a group. To begin, the group is currently completely volunteer run, meaning that we all have day jobs as STEM professionals. As such, one of the challenges has been carving sufficient time to help our organization progress along the way. Luckily, we have had a lot of support from our networks and other organizations who have similar goals.
What keeps you going?
Knowing that we can encourage Latinas whose shoes we were once in -- to do well in math and science subjects, get good grades to enter college, and follow a career path of their dreams.
Who are the people you consider your mentors or influences and why?
Our first mentors and influences for many of us were our families. We have all had various mentors throughout our careers including each other.
What is the best piece of "real talk" advice you've received?
Stay humble. Know that your career path and your goals may change over time, but stay true to yourself along the way.
What is your favorite life advice?
One of the greatest things we can have as women is education. Our knowledge and opinions are valuable to share with the world to help make it better.
Is there a time in your lives when you've thought, 'I can't do this anymore?'
We’ve all overcome a lot of adversity in our lives. We move forward and make opportunities by being proactive.
What’s next? What are the five year goals?
Next, we plan to expand the organization, and hire full-time administrators to help us continue the work that we are doing. As we mentioned, currently we are 100% volunteer run, but we want to expand our work by reaching out to more people nationwide. We need more woman power, and so we hope to formalize the group even more.
What is a habit or routine you swear by?
Share your big goals with others- it makes you accountable and also may open new doors.
How have your relationships to your careers changed in the last five years?
Embracing the idea that mentoring the next generation of STEM experts outside of our individual, professional work is an important part of our career journeys.
How have your personal relationships changed in the last five years?
We encourage one another to embrace failures and share these stories with our Latina members. It’s important for our members to know about our successes as Latinas in STEM, and it is equally important to tell our stories of roadblocks and lessons learned. Although it can be difficult to think back on difficult situations, our stories can be what inspires our members to continue pursuing and thriving in STEM fields.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
It means supporting and mentoring one another to achieve our goals. It means being critical of each other in a way that helps build other women up, and not tear them down. It means helping other women achieve their dreams.