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National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Dr. Rose Davidson, STEM Coordinator
In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, here is a list of five of the many Hispanic women who have helped to change the face of STEM in our world.

Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go on a mission in space. She was one of a team of astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has been to space four times and now is the Director of the Johnson Space center in Houston, Texas.

Helen Rodríguez Trías (1929-2001) was the first Hispanic president of the American Public Health Association and helped to improve access to health services for women and children and those with HIV and AIDS in both the United States and Puerto Rico. She also founded the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse, an organization that fought against the practice of forced sterilization.

Enriqueta González Baz y de la Vega (1915-2002) was the first woman in Mexico to earn a degree in Math. She went on to become a university professor, published several mathematical books, and founded the Mexican Mathematical Society.

France A. Córdova was the first woman to be named NASA Chief Scientist because of her astrophysics work with x-rays, gamma rays and black holes. She currently is the Director of the National Science Foundation.

Ynés Enriquetta Julietta Mexía (1870-1938) was a famous botanist who collected and catalogued over 144,00 plant specimens in Mexico and South America. Fifty plant species are named in honor of her contributions to Botanical Science.

Additional Hispanic women who pioneered in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are featured on the Society of Women Engineers’ SWE Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Despite the efforts of the Hispanic women featured during National Hispanic Heritage Month, less than 2% of STEM jobs are currently held by Hispanic or Latina women according to the 2017 statistics reported by the National Science Foundation.

In addition to the Society of Women Engineers, other organizations such as Latinas in Tech and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers are working to change this situation.

UN Special Advisor Claudia Romo Edelman, at the Hispanic Leadership Summit challenged the assemblage of Hispanic business, political and media leaders, “We are temple builders, 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.”
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