Latina Trailblazers in STEM

By Lizette Ruiz & Olga Ochoa

From exploring space as an astronaut to creating new technology tools as an engineer, Latinas are reaching new heights as strong, innovative and smart women in the fields of  science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Overall, women, especially Latinas, still lag behind in these fields. According to the American Association of University Women, only 18 percent of engineering and technology college majors and 19 percent of computer and information-science majors are women. However, some notable Latinas are paving the way as trailblazers in these fields. Meet some amazing women who are making amazing accomplishments in the world of STEM.


France Córdova (born August 5, 1947) is an astrophysicist, researcher, and university administrator. Currently she is the eleventh president of Purdue University. France was born in Paris, France to her Mexican father and her Irish American mother. From 1993 to 1996, she held the position of Chief Scientist at NASA, making her the youngest person and the first woman to hold this position. She has taught at different universities before becoming the president at Purdue. She is an important Latina for interdisciplinary work in education and science.


Dora Maria Abreu– Serves as Assistant President for Credit Suisse Information Technology Division. Dora received her Bachelor of Science as well as Master of Science degrees from the State University of New York. She also received a master’s degree in education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. Dora has had an impressive career by working for respectable companies and organizations such as Goldman Sachs, NASA, New York City Housing Authority, and IBM as well others. Dora also holds the prestigious privilege of being a a lifetime member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). She has been involved with SHPE for over twenty years and has since shared many innovations of STEM with at the SHPE Junior High School chapters, as well as introduced many programs.


Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is the current Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center, but is a former astronaut and engineer. Ellen became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go to space, where she logged in over 1,000 hours. She was a mission specialist, payload commander, and flight engineer on her missions to space. She was retired from spacecraft missions, but now serves as the Deputy Director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Because of her notable achievement, she is great role model and is an important Latina.


Ruth Gonzalez is a mathematician from Houston, Texas, who has made great accomplishments in the world of math. Both of Ruth’s parents were from Mexico. She graduated from Rice University in 1986, receiving her PHD in mathematics, making her the first U.S born, Hispanic, women to receive a PHD in Mathematics. While finishing her degree, Ruth began to to work for the Exxon Production Research Company as a  full-time as a geophysical mathematician. At Exxon, Ruth concentrated on the advancement of seismic imaging tools for exploring oil and gas reservoirs. She also helped develop valuable technology that would allow specialists to know where to dig for oil and gas ( which means big money). Ruth currently serves as an adviser for the Project Facilitation Team of the ExxonMobil Exploration Company. Ruth also partakes in encouraging Latinitas, like you, to pursue a degree in math and science.

While we still have a way to go before women are equally represented in these fields, these inspiring trailblazers are proving that Latinas can make a big impact in STEM.  Times are changing and now more and more women are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. Their accomplishments and stories are truly inspiring. Maybe you too can follow in their footsteps and invent something awesome, come up with a super cool theory  or write your own scientific book!

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