They’re smart, innovative and have deep track records of success.
According to a Pew Research Report, Latinos make up only 8% of all STEM workers in the US. Latinas in STEM are only 2%. In this month of Women’s History, what does it mean to be a woman and succeed in an industry where STEM skills are required? And what is the experience of Latinas in professions that require STEM skills like hi-tech?
Here’s a look at four women who have had incredible careers in hi-tech environments that required skills in math and science, what they say about their experiences, and their advice to those entering the field.
Spotlight on four Latinas in STEM for International Women’s Month 2022:
Brenda Bazan is the Operating Partner at TWV Capital Management and Texas Women Ventures, an independent, Dallas-based private equity firm that provides growth capital through innovative capital solutions to private companies in a way that allows owners and management to maintain majority ownership and control. Brenda is Mexican American.
Betsabe Botaitis the CEO of Solidus Capital, a fintech startup focused on providing access and educating qualified investors to diversify their wealth in the digital assets and blockchain ecosystem. She joined Solidus this year after a decade of top jobs in the fintech industry. Betsabe resides in the Las Vegas area but was born and raised in Mexico.
Laura Marino is Chief Product Officer for TrueAccord, a Silicon Valley startup dedicated to transforming debt collection into a pathway toward financial health, to putting into humanity debt collection. She is Columbian living in Silicon Valley.
Maria Villar is the Head of Enterprise Data Strategy and Transformation at SAP, a German software manufacturer. She is of Cuban descendent residing in the Florida Keys.
Being good in math
Being good in math was a theme that ran through each discussion with these women although only 3 out of 4 majored in math related topics in school. Bazan was the outlier. “I didn’t have a degree in technology or visualize myself in a computer arena,” she said. “I was always great at math and science and they were easy for me, but I just loved the other stuff.” Bazan graduated from Princeton with a degree in art history. Exiting during a recession caused her to take her brother-in-law’s advice and interview with IBM at a time when Big Blue was investing heavily in training new hires in computer science. From IBM, she went on to become the CEO of several startups in the hi-tech industry.
Having parents that expected success
Having parents that expected success was another theme amongst these women. Laura Marino’s father and mother were both focused on engineering for their 7 children. Laura relates that her siblings – 5 girls and 1 boy — all went into some engineering related field: 2 are architects, 3 are civil engineers as is Laura, 1 has a PhD in computer science and the other is a doctor. “The biggest gift we received from our parents,” Marino said, “was their expectations of us.”
Being life-long learners
Being life-long learners has also helped these women get and stay ahead in the hi-tech world. Botaitis started her financial career at 15 as a teller in a bank in Mexico. She studied accounting in Mexico, but finished her MBA and MS in Finance at Golden Gate University in SF. Through on-the-job training in large financial institutions such BlackRock and Citigroup and multiple fintech start-ups, Botaitis valuable knowledge about new technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies. She is now applying her 25 years of accumulated, diversified expertise to lead a hypergrowth start-up serving Latam and Iberoamerica. “We have the strategy to help clients diversify their wealth through various the digital asset ecosystem. This is the future of wealth management,” she said.
Making it in the corporate world
Making it in the corporate world hasn’t been all easy for these women, but each of them spoke to the necessity of having a mentor who can help guide one’s development. Although Bazan said almost all of her mentors were white men, Marino spoke to the power of belonging to a professional women’s group like HiPower that has given her the boost she needed. Villar specifically named an executive woman at IBM who mentored her and was responsible for her move from a purely IT-bound career into the world of data where she is considered a worldwide expert today.
The four share some strong words of advice
Each of these women had strong words of advice for women entering hi-tech companies.
Maria: “Learn to negotiate for yourself early. Your first real job counts,” Villar said. Negotiate your salary, your next job or even in your personal life. Don’t take the first offer, no man ever does. Get your voice early,” she advised. “Negotiating is never going to be comfortable. Get some practice.” More on Maria
Laura: Build a network. “Looking back I wish had been more aware of what it took to get a network,” said Marino. “Once I had women who pushed me, I understood just how important that was. I was letting things happen. I was fortunate that it worked out. But, be a little more aware that you have the power to define your future.”
Brenda: Dream big was Bazan’s advice. “Imagine that you can do it. Find people who also want you to achieve your dream – mentor, relative, friend,– somebody has to believe in you,” Bazan said. “I tried to do too much on my own.”
Betsabe: Finally, Botaitis advised to know yourself first. “Know your IQ, your EQ and how creative and open you are.” Botaitis follows up that advice with a caution to “never stay in the box. Always go outside the matrix.”
Metrics of note:
Women comprise 49.5% of the world’s population. Today, they also earn more college degrees than men (men 36.7%, women 38.3%), and they represent 45% of the world’s workforce. Villar, Marino, Boitasis and Bazan represent Latin women who have chosen careers in hi-tech and who are making an impact today and building easier paths for those who come after them.