AIChE’s LatinX in Chemical Engineering Community recently hosted its first virtual symposium, illuminating “Advances and Contributions from LatinX Chemical Engineers.” An affinity group within AIChE’s Minority Affairs Committee (MAC), the LatinX in ChE Community will soon collaborate with MAC and other AIChE groups at sessions scheduled for the 2023 AIChE Annual Meeting. The meeting will spotlight a program track amplifying the principles that pave AIChE’s IDEAL path — promoting inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism, and learning — and aim to create a stronger profession built on a foundation of diverse talents, experiences, and perspectives.
Finding a sense of belonging
Gabriel Rodriguez, chair of the LatinX in ChE Community and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Colorado, says that “LatinX in ChE offers a space where AIChE members at different career levels can create a sense of community and belonging, and allows for the exchange of experiences and expertise that helps Latin and Hispanic members advance along their career paths.”
Rodriguez adds that the representation, visibility, and support generated by activities like the recent LatinX symposium fill a known need.
“In the U.S. alone, nearly one-in-five people identify as Latin or Hispanic,” Rodriguez points out. “However, when we look at the chemical engineering profession, the percentage of LatinX individuals is only 9%, which constitutes a known gap in representation.” Aside from representation, Rodriguez also mentions that disparities in funding support and career outcomes are documented as lower for Latinos and other underrepresented groups in academia and industry alike.
We want to address that gap for the LatinX community and make AIChE their global home and professional family.
Rodriguez notes that while AIChE members reported in the 2023 AIChE Salary Survey that salary gaps seemed to be closing in some areas, only 5% of responses to the survey were from people identifying as LatinX or Hispanic, versus 78% White/Caucasian, underscoring the contrast.
Rodriguez says he has personally noticed such disproportions in participation at engineering conferences. “Thinking about the experience of many of us, the representation and visibility of LatinX professionals in AIChE and other professional conferences often appear even smaller than the statistics I mentioned suggest. When attending meetings, as a student or professional, I’ve often felt like one of the few Latinos present. We want to address that gap for the LatinX community and make AIChE their global home and professional family.”
Creating a welcoming environment for all
Acknowledging that the political atmosphere is affecting the dialogue when it comes to addressing social challenges and disparities, Rodriguez affirms that the LatinX in ChE Community is committed to raising consciousness and promoting inclusive and equitable environments for all, and for the good of the engineering profession.
“Our LatinX community is diverse, and we want to support Latinx people from all different backgrounds,” says Rodriguez. “To attract and retain the best and brightness, we need to demonstrate to others the good work that we do in this profession, and feel at home here. Representation, visibility, and inclusion are critical for that objective.”
As the LatinX in ChE Community prepares for its programming at the AIChE Annual Meeting, Rodriguez recalls with satisfaction the group’s past successes, and how they benefitted colleagues.
...it allowed us to identify role models and seek inspiration by hearing the stories of our peers.
“Our first virtual meetings were focused on driving inspiration and creating connections by sharing the stories of LatinX chemical engineers who are leaders in their respective areas in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada,” explains Rodriguez. “Many of us could relate to the aspirations and struggles they experienced.”
When the group held its first in-person event at the 2022 AIChE Annual Meeting, Rodriguez says, “it was great to see others approaching us, asking about the community, or excited to meet other LatinX chemical engineers through AIChE. Going to our Café with LatinX in ChE event, in a room full of 75 LatinX and allies, increased the sense of belonging in this space, and it allowed us to identify role models and seek inspiration by hearing the stories of our peers.”
Rodriguez says that with the active participation of members, including students and allies, the LatinX in ChE group aims to organize events year round, to better serve the diverse needs of the community and to provide leadership and service opportunities within AIChE and the profession.
Invitation to Join LatinX in ChE: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Hello, Familia! We are excited to invite you to be a part of LatinX in ChE, a vibrant community under the AIChE MAC Community’s umbrella, dedicated to strengthening the bond among AIChE members of Latin American descent.
Our board is a melting pot of diverse roles, including students, faculty, postdocs, and industry professionals. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro, there’s a space for you.
Connect with us:
Email us to join our Slack channel: LatinXinChE@gmail.com
Stay updated on our activities and follow us on social media: https://linktr.ee/latinxinche