The representation of women and Hispanics in STEM occupations across the U.S. lacks diversity, according to a study by the National Science Foundation.
STEM majors include those studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
The study found that 49 percent of engineers in the U.S. are white men, whereas 4 percent are classified as Hispanic men.
When it comes to female engineers, the percentage of Hispanics is even smaller. The same study shows that 18 percent of engineers are white women and 2 percent are Hispanic women.
Demographics from UCF’s 2018 Fast Facts state that the College of Engineering and Computer Science showcases more diversity than the national average, with a total of 26.6 percent Hispanics enrolled in the major. As for women, those numbers showcase 17.5 percent currently enrolled at UCF. A UCF report from spring 2016 showed 22.5 percent Hispanic engineering majors. That same report showed 16.9 percent women studying engineering at the university.
Eva Gluck, sophomore industrial engineering major and officer in both the Society of Women Engineers and the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers, said she thinks the numbers of women in engineering are rising slowly but surely because more women and minorities are being introduced to the field at a young age.
“I haven’t let the statistics scare me away from my major,” Gluck said. “I feel that I’ve been able to succeed just as much as any man with my degree.”
Ana Riveros, president of UCF’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and senior industrial engineering major, said she hopes minorities studying engineering can make use of all the resources available to them at UCF, such as workshops, internships and mentoring. She said that these resources support minority students in the program and STEM field as a whole.
Riveros said that SHPE provides its members with the opportunity to prepare themselves outside of a typical classroom setting.
“Not only do we provide professional development, mentoring and opportunities to give back to the community, but most importantly, we provide a ‘familia,'” she said, using the Spanish word for "family."
Instead of being an exclusive club for Hispanic engineering majors at UCF, Riveros said that SHPE has an open-door policy to all students no matter their ethnicity, race or gender. The organization wants its members to bond based on the common theme of culture, she said.
“I guess seeing more people that look like you is comforting and shows you [being a minority in STEM] is possible,” Riveros said.
UCF’s Society of Women Engineers is another professional development organization on campus geared towards the empowerment of women in engineering.
“I enjoy problem solving too much to let a statistic define me,” said Michaela Pain, president of SWE.
As a senior computer engineering major, Pain described the challenge of being a minority in engineering due to her gender. She said sometimes she is treated differently or not taken as seriously by peers because it is a male-dominated field.
“It can be hard to feel inspired without seeing many women in engineering leadership positions,” Pain said.
By solving puzzles and working on different math problems, engineering majors like Riveros, Pain and Gluck strive to contribute to complex problem solving.
“I love that I am able to contribute by pursuing engineering myself and encouraging others as well,” Gluck said.
These three students said they all agree that increasing their numbers and defying the odds is what motivates them to pursue careers in the field of engineering.