Today is 50/50 Day — a day of conversations about the leadership, economic, political, and social changes needed to achieve a more equal world for girls and women. Given that more than 25% of Latinas live in poverty, I am keenly aware of the financial hardships we face and our underrepresentation in positions of power — from board rooms to the halls of Congress.
Closing the gender divide in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is one of the most effective ways to achieve equality. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there will be 1.1 million computing-related job openings by 2024. More than half of these jobs may go unfilled due to the insufficient pool of qualified college graduates. The job market is changing rapidly, and those in the workforce will need computing, engineering, and physics skills to be ready for the future world of work. Today, however, only 3% of Latina women are represented in STEM fields.
I’ve seen firsthand how an education in math or science can change a family’s story in one generation. That’s why I wrote my master’s thesis on Latinas in STEM and launched the Eva Longoria Foundation to enable more Latinas to break the cycle of poverty. Since 2013, my foundation’s STEM education programs have helped more than 1,600 young women develop technology skills. Lessons on coding, robotics, video game design, and 3D printing empower these girls to learn concepts that define our new job market. We’ve partnered with the Televisa Foundation and the National Center for Women & Information Technology to support and promote TECHNOLOchicas, a nationwide campaign to increase the visibility of Latinas in STEM careers and raise awareness among young Latinas and their families about opportunities in technology. When girls feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged by role models, they build confidence in their abilities and dive into technical math and computing projects.
Technology has the potential to expand women’s political representation and to change social norms. When women have the education and skills that meet the needs of the modern job market, individuals, families, and our entire global community benefit. Their participation improves companies’ bottom lines, expands the qualified workforce, promotes equality, and drives innovation.
In September 2015, United Nations member states voted to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change. The SDGs call for all countries to take action so that no one is left behind, particularly the women and girls who continue to be systematically under-represented as users and leaders in science, technology, and innovation. Organizations like UN Women are working with partners around the world to close the gender digital gap and increase the investment in STEM education.
If we don’t have a seat at the table, then the unique challenges women face will continue to be ignored. Today, join me in calling for a greater investment in STEM education and training for Latinas and all women. Together, let’s create a world where we can all thrive.