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Hispanics represent 15 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, but only eight percent of the nation’s workforce in the STEM fields.
Hispanics represent 15 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, but only eight percent of the nation’s workforce in the STEM fields.

Empowering Hispanics in STEM

The National Conference of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is the largest gathering of Hispanic STEM talent in the U.S. 

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Hispanics represent 15 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, but only eight percent of the nation’s workforce in the STEM fields. According to Raquel Tamez, it’s the mission of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to help improve that statistic and “empower Hispanics as leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians and engineers.”

“We want to be a solution,” said Tamez, who serves as SHPE’s CEO. SHPE is a national organization comprised of more than 300 chapters.

For Tamez, the group's National Conference is an annual opportunity to renew that mission while ensuring that progress continues to be made. The event is the nation’s largest gathering of Hispanic STEM talent, welcoming students from pre-college to graduate levels, as well as “a whole spectrum” of professionals, including educators corporate representatives.

More than 6,000 people are expected to attend this year’s conference, which will be held from Nov. 1 through 5 in Kansas City, Missouri. An ideal venue for networking, the conference will include guest speakers, workshops, competitions, a lecture series and award ceremonies. More than 200 exhibitors from various companies and industries will actively be recruiting.

Keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • Futurist Julie Friedman Steele, Board Chair and CEO of the World Future Society

  • Maria Cardona, political pundit

  • Rubén Hinojosa, former Congressman, who will be presenting the “Rubén Hinojosa STEM Champion Award" at the STAR Awards Ceremony. (Hinojosa was the first to ever receive the honor.)

About 10 years ago, Tamez listened to a speech from a member of the World Future Society. She remembers being enthralled by what she heard. The futurist was discussing concepts that would go on to become revolutionary products and services, such as Uber, Bitcoin and AirBNB. This why she asked Friedman to speak at the conference’s opening ceremony — to better prepare Hispanics in the STEM fields for tomorrow’s possibilities and opportunities.

When Tamez joined SHPE as CEO earlier this year, she did not come with a background in any of the STEM fields. (Instead, she has about two decades of professional legal experience.) Her choice to be a part of SHPE represents her connection to an idea.

“For me, at the end of the day, I’m passionate about the education of Hispanics,” Tamez said. “In particular, Hispanics in STEM.”

It’s a passion that grew from Tamez’s own upbringing in inner-city Houston. Her parents sacrificed a great deal so that she could have access to a quality education, and that education helped her to earn her success. She wants to extend that access to the young Hispanics of today.

As a champion for inclusion, Tamez is looking forward to a popular program offered at the National Conference that highlights another underrepresented demographic, titled “Empowering Latinas in STEM,” which includes a series of workshops tailored for female STEM students and professionals.

Tamez said she knows that some “people grow weary” in the discussion of embracing diversity in the professional world, but the needle on the gauge of inclusion remains too low.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Tamez said. “We need to move the needle, and I think SHPE can help move that needle.”

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