Nearly 400 local Latina students will attend a conference on Saturday at Glendale Community College, where they will participate in coding and robotics workshops and hear from Latina women who have succeeded in STEM fields, or science, technology, engineering and math.
The free conference will include breakfast and lunch, and was paid for through a federal grant, said Richard Cortes, who oversees the grant at the college as part of his role as a STEM counselor on campus.
As part of the grant, Glendale Community College officials aim to reach out to Latina and Latino students, and students from low-income households.
"This grant has given us an opportunity to host such events," Cortes said. "We do our best to empower them, to motivate them."
The conference's keynote speaker will be Lolita Taub, who has worked as a sales account executive and sold computer software and hardware, among other roles in the tech industry.
"Currently, only 25% of the tech industry is made up of women. Out of that, only 1% are Latinas," Taub said when reached by email. "That has to change, and these young Latina women can do it. It is their time to shine and change the status quo."
The middle school and high school students will also hear about STEM industries from representatives who work at Microsoft, Apple, Snapchat, LA Makerspace and TECHNOLOchicas.
The latter organization works to raise awareness among Latinas about careers in technology.
According to TECHNOLOchias, 26% of women in the United States will be Latina by 2050. It also cites a figure from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, predicting 1.4 million jobs will be added in information technology by 2020.
The growing Latina population represents "a vastly untapped talent pool to fill this gap," according to the organization's website.
While educators and professionals work to close that gap, Cortes said it's important to give students access to role models.
"Our youth are influenced by role models, by people in their community," he said. "Statistical data informs us there are not a lot of Latinas in computer engineering. That speaks volumes in terms of the kinds of role models Latinas would have access to in their neighborhoods."
Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org