Sep 23, 2022 - News

Business leaders say start early to recruit more Latinos

From left: Juan Torres, Susie Lira-Gonzalez, Patsy Landaveri and Tim Stevens-Armijo during a panel on Latinos in tech at Denver Startup Week on Sept. 22. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Latinos make up 17% of all workers across occupations, according to Pew Research, but when it comes to positions in science, technology, engineering and math, they represent only 8% of STEM workers.

Driving the news: The discrepancy was the topic of an all-Latino panel on Thursday at Denver Startup Week, which this year had a focus on underrepresented groups.

  • The panelists included executives who agreed that one way the industry can improve its recruitment and hiring is by making sure young people are aware of opportunities while they're still in grade school.
  • Tim Stevens-Armijo, principal at Amazon Web Services, said Big Tech companies are not doing a good enough job of letting young people know job opportunities exist at their companies.

What they're saying: "We need to have role models that show you shouldn't be afraid, that there is room for all of us out there," said Juan Torres, associate lab director at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, who emphasized mentorship as another way companies can help steer Latinos toward STEM industries.

Susie Lira-Gonzalez, co-founder of Denver-based INDX, a company she described as "Pinterest for learning," said tech companies interested in recruiting Latino talent should be investing in businesses founded by them, including startups.

  • "And not as a charity case, but [as in] look at this market cap opportunity we can unlock," Lira-Gonzalez said.

Between the lines: Stevens-Armijo said Big Tech companies should try to set up offices in predominantly Latino neighborhoods to offer resources like free computer coding classes, and even provide free devices that can help children start using tools that help with fluency in technology.


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