The Latinos Affinity Group hosted a presentation with speaker Diana Iracheta titled “Latina Engineers: Changing What Engineers Look Like.” You can view the on-demand presentation in the Advance Learning Center.
Engineer, influencer, and entrepreneur Diana has spent the last couple of years creating and growing a community of Latina Engineers throughout the world. Today the network has grown to over 10,000 women both in academic and industry in several different countries. By supporting and empowering Latinas in engineering, Diana is hoping to help make the industry more welcoming and inclusive of all who wish to enter. Knowing how it felt to be one of a few girls, and one of the only Latinas in her classes, Diana decided to start Latina Engineer in 2019 to help raise awareness of the low quantities of Latinas in engineering and share resources to current and future engineers. In 2020, amongst a global pandemic, Diana started the annual International Latinas in Engineering Week conference, where she hosts speakers on technical, personal, and professional topics related to engineering and Latinidad. The conference also hosts scholarships for current Latinas pursuing degrees in engineering.
We had the opportunity to talk to Diana about her efforts as a Latina Engineer. Here’s what was discussed:
When did you know you wanted to start something like Latina Engineer? What have been your reactions as you’ve watched your network grow?
Part of me chose engineering because I wanted to contribute to changing the number of Latinas in Engineering, but I didn’t really think of creating something until I was out of college. As a student, I faced multiple challenges, and I never felt like many students, organizations, or faculty really understood all of them. Once I was done and I started to notice that I was doing good, I decided to share my story. I wanted to share how my unique characteristics, while making it more challenging, did not stop me from succeeding. The best part is that I started to connect with other Ingenieras right away. Meeting them really brightened my life and motivated me to keep going. As this network grows, I become more proud of who I am, and I hope to translate that into others through the content I create.
Being a Latina leader in STEM, what are some ways you empower and support current and future Latinas in STEM?
I like to focus on 3 things.
- Educational resources for students and professionals so that I can share what I have learned and answer questions that I had as a student. This way, I can actively participate in the support to Latinas in Engineering.
- Creating a community of Ingenieras. I don’t ever want to come across pretending that I am the “ideal” Latina Engineer. I am not even close to that! But I want to connect them instead. Being able to meet each other and have this network really makes you feel like we have a place in STEM (because we do!), and it also helps us meet others who might provide advice throughout our journeys. I don’t and will never have all the answers.
- Motivate Latinas in STEM. I focus on creating content that is motivational, inspiring, relatable, funny. We are a really niched down community and I want to cater to filling the gap for Latinas in Engineering.
As we will discuss in the webinar, inclusivity in the workplace is extremely important. What does inclusivity look like to you? What does an inclusive environment look like/feel like?
There are multiple ways to be inclusive. It is a bit more challenging when it comes to engineering because the majority are men, so how can we create that? The first way is by changing the environments to be welcoming to diverse individuals. The number one reason women leave engineering is because of harsh environments. However, in my first few years, I have experienced a lot of support and sense of belonging in my all-men engineering teams. That definitely has made a positive impact in my career. The other thing is actually creating diverse environments. I understand that not every work place can have a 50/50 men vs women engineering team, but slowly making that combination is very important. At my current job, we have gone from 0 to 3 female engineers in the last 5 months. Let me tell you it has meant the world to me to make that change. I was the first one to come in and I had already talked about making the other 2 my best friends since before their first day.
What has been your biggest struggle while creating Latina Engineer and what strengths have you gained from them?
Being out there really exposes you to negativity. So, I have definitely learned to deal and not let it get to me. I see myself as “poking a bear”. I am bringing all these changes and struggles to light, so of course I am putting myself in that situation. However, by doing this, I am normalizing more that Latinas are here to succeed in engineering, so I feel like I am fighting it somehow. Unfortunately, a lot of the negativity comes from men, and they are the ones that dominate Engineering. So little by little I am changing those mentalities, or at least I feel like I am.
What would you say to anyone who’s considering attending your webinar? Why should they come and what should they expect?
If you want to find a community, feel inspired, want to make a difference, and learn how to make the best of your engineering career, you need to attend this webinar. I will get to explain a bit more during the webinar but: “Every Latina Engineer is a role model”. We should be proud of it and work hard to demonstrate how much we want this. Not only that, but also making an impact that transforms our career into something bigger than ourselves. If you are proud of your roots and want to open space to others like us, I would highly recommend you join us!