Latinas in Stem: Past, Present and Future

Many moons ago, there were very few women in the science field. Often, the women that were in the field, were hidden away and not largely celebrated for their achievements and contributions.  The recent Academy Award nominated film, Hidden Figures, underscored how true that is and how much was kept from the public, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  But women were there.  And we need to celebrate not just the women that were STEM trailblazers, but the women of color who were doing big things in STEM but didn’t receive the accolades and attention that their male counterparts received.  

We begin by congratulating Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space and soon to be inductee to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.  Dr. Ochoa is an American (Comadre) Engineer and current Director of the Johnson Space Center. The second woman to hold that  title and the first Latina.

Dr. Ochoa is a veteran astronaut with nearly one thousand flight hours to her credit, an amazing accomplishment for any astronaut.  She was first selected by NASA in 1990 after having attended Stanford University and receiving her Master of Science and Doctorate Degrees.

Dr. Ochoa is originally from Los Angeles, where she was born but grew up in La Mesa, California.  Her parents had immigrated from Sonora,Mexico before she and her 12 siblings were born.

“I’m honored to be recognized among generations of astronauts who were at the forefront of exploring our universe for the benefit of humankind,” Ochoa said, according to KCET. “I hope to continue to inspire our nation’s youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, so they, too, may reach for the stars.”  


Which brings me to the present. A look at another amazing Latina in STEM, Noramay Cadena. I recently enjoyed hearing about her story and reading an interview she did featured in Forbes Magazine.  Here she recounts her amazing story and she was able to get not one, not two, but three degrees from MIT, despite having been a teen mom!  

Noramay, is the founder of the Latinas in STEM, an organization that strives to inspire and empower Latinas to pursue opportunities in STEM. Programs they offer are K-12 Stem Education, College Student Support network and Professional Development resources.  Additionally, Noramay is also the founder and current Director of “Make It In LA” which is LA’s only hardware-focused accelerator in the San Fernando Valley.

Which brings us to the future.  Last week we celebrated National Engineering Week 2017.  I tried to get this post up in time for that but there was so much going on in education last week, that I couldn’t finish this piece on time.  But maybe it’s better timing this way anyway.  The truth is that these women in STEM should be celebrated everyday!

The future is bright for Latinas who are interested in sciences.  At Stanford, there is a program to recruit young women as early as Middle School.  I am looking forward in the years ahead to learn of the phenomenal achievement of these young women and we will be sure to post them here for you.

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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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