March 26, 2015
By Nicole Akoukou Thompson
The southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, where the tech Mecca Silicon Valley resides, is abundantly populated with Latinos. In fact, the budding Latino community represents 30 percent of the population.
However, there's just 3 percent of Latinos working in the Valley's high-tech workforce, according to The Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV).
Ron Gonzales, President and CEO of HFSV, stated in a recent interview that education levels are to blame for Latino's absence from Silicon Valley. Also, the lack of Latinos' presence in the tech industry can quickly be traced to education gaps that begin as early as kindergarten and first grade. And that gap widens as students reach graduate levels, and finally seek out careers.
STEM-related degrees aren't unattainable because Latinos are uninterested in these subjects; STEM-related degrees are unattainable because Latinos aren't reaching the education levels required to tap these markets. They are not taking sufficient tech, science and math courses (chemistry, physics or calculus) to encourage placement in high-tech graduate programs or companies. Disparities involving Latinos become even more visible when companies share employment data, which reveals the ethnic breakdown per position, Gonzales stated during the afforementioned interview.
In an article written by Nadine Ono for California Economic Summit, the writer shared that the real number of Latinos present in high-tech positions may be as low as 1 percent. And a report issued by Change the Equation indicated that Latinos are less likely to pursue careers in computer science, engineering and advanced marketing today than they were in 2001.
The Silicon Valley Education Foundation and ALearn have partnered with HFSV to create high school and middle school programing, such as "Latinos in Technology Initiative," to spark more interest in STEM-related degrees and careers. These important STEM-related initiatives understand that Latino youth need more than encouragement. They require opportunity, college readiness and motivation.
Supplemental education, provided through learning institutes, summer camps, afterschool programs, internships and apprenticeships throughout high school years likely ready at-risk youth to learn fundamental skills, as well as the importance and benefits of tech jobs. Those programs also enable Latino youth to earn college credits early, creating more incentive to seek higher education. According to Change the Equation, 57 percent of Latino children aren't currently enrolled in afterschool programs, despite the fact afterschool extracurricular activities often include enrichment opportunities involving math, science and technology.
The "Solving the Diversity Dilemma: Changing the Face of the STEM Workforce" published by Change the Equation during February, stated that not all hope is lost, and gains can be made. Parents and friends can offer a support system for aspiring students, which could easily act as an additional incentive for success. Enabling engagement with successful Latinos and other underrepresented populations in Silicon Valley could be beneficial. Also, recruiting children from AP courses and offering them enrichment courses is an important way to find talent hidden in plain sight.
Latino youth who explore STEM-related education are better positioned to contend for high-paying, high-skill jobs in their own communities and beyond, and they're better able to strengthen their local economy and create a legacy of wealth and education within their families.
Source: Latin Post