This Latina woman is inspiring Hispanic engineers

Raquel Tamez, CEO of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers: “I think we need to teach our Hispanic youth where our heritage comes from.”

At a panel on technology, some of the industry’s most powerful Latinos all sat in close proximity. There was the vice president of Microsoft. Someone from AT&T. The head of Latino community engagement at Google.

One woman masterfully commanded the crowd. That was Raquel Tamez, CEO of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

“We are temple builders,” Tamez said. “We were some of the first engineers and architects. We were some of the first astronomers and scientists. And I think we need to teach our Hispanic youth where our heritage comes from.”

The statement was made at the first-ever Hispanic Leadership Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where We Are All Human Foundation Founder and UN Special Adviser Claudia Romo Edelman assembled the Latino community’s foremost leaders in business, politics and media.

Tamez’s words belong to a context where more Latinos are graduating from high school and pursuing higher education but still only about one in five actually earn their bachelor’s degree.  Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Global Migration and Demography Research at the Pew Research Center, said that a lot of Latinos are starting college but postponing or dropping out so they can provide for family, raise money for their educations or find stable work. The trend is especially affecting young Latino men.

Yovany Jerez, national president of AT&T’s Hispanic association HACEMOS, said that people should be championing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for the Hispanic population because a career in tech doesn’t require a four-year education; there are even inexpensive online programs that can teach young people the skills they need to code.

“That’s the type of education that we as a community need to be focused on,” Jerez said. 

Tamez said that as a whole, tech companies are good about recruiting Hispanic employees. But she cautioned that they are not doing enough to retain, promote and advance talent, even as they aim for a more representative workforce.

“We actually need to diversify diversity,” Tamez said, “and we actually need to make diversity more inclusive.”

Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.