Latinas are less likely to get a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) than any other woman. As of 2010 just 3.5 percent of STEM degrees in the U.S. went to Latinas. Though this number is painfully low, there are efforts to raise it. Organizations like Latinas in STEM aim to motivate Latinas to apply their efforts in the scientific fields and support them when they’re the odd woman out. While there’s still a long way for us to go till we see more Latinas represented in STEM professions, we have to shout out the Latinas who have made significant scientific contributions that have impacted the world.
Puertorriqueña Antonia Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic to hold the position of U.S. surgeon general. During her time as U.S. surgeon general under the Bush administration, she focused much of her energy on improving the health of women, children, and minorities. Her focus and contribution to the world focused on AIDS prevention and for taking proactive approaches including sex education.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic female astronaut. Ochoa has been to space four times where she’s logged more than 950 hours. She was born in Los Angeles and did her undergraduate work in San Diego and then transferred to Stanford where she completed her graduate studies. She holds a master of science degree and a doctorate in electrical engineering. Her contributions include the invention of optical recognition systems, computer hardware and robots.
Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias’ contributions to society include the establishment of the first center for the care of newborn babies in Puerto Rico; a center that has saved many newborns. Her advocacy for women’s reproductive rights including supporting abortion rights, banishing forced sterilization, and expanding health access for poor women. Her work had a massive impact on women’s healthcare services.
Born in Colombia, planetary geologist Adriana Ocampo is known in the world of science due to her leadership in the discovery of a historic crater in Mexico; a geological impression that is more than 100 miles wide. Currently, she works as a lead scientist in NASA. She has been named by Discover Magazine’s November 2002 Issue as one of the 50 most important women in Science.