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12 Latinas in STEM Just Got Life-Size Statues That Are Being Displayed at the Smithsonian for Women’s History Month

When you think of a prototypical STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) job holder, you might not automatically think of a woman. And the chances of you thinking about a woman of color is probably even more rare. And there’s a reason for that.

Per the American Association of University Women, women make up only 28% of the STEM workforce. And according to the Pew Research Center, Black and Hispanic people make up only 16% of STEM jobs. 

Based on these numbers, women of color aren’t exactly over-represented in STEM fields. And that’s why The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in partnership with the Lyda Hill Foundation, have decided to take representation into their own hands. 

AAAS and the Lyda Hill Foundation chose 125 diverse female role models in STEM to become ambassadors for their new initiative, “IF/THEN.” To make matters more exciting, AAAS and Lyda Hill commissioned 125 life-size statues of their 125 STEM role models to become part of the #IfThenSheCan art exhibit that is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. 

“We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, in a statement. “The goal of IF/THEN is to shift the way our country — and the world — think about women in STEM and this requires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility.”

Tech worker Beatris Mendez Gandica is one of the ambassadors for IF/THEN and one of roughly seven Latinas to be highlighted in the program. Mendez Gandica also happens to be the only Latina in tech to be a part of the exhibit.

“I am sharing this because it is crazy to think that someone like myself can be modeled as a statue to inspire young girls and kids in general that STEM is for anyone not just for a few,” Mendez Gandica wrote in LinkedIn post.

Courtesy of Beatris Mendez Gandica/LinkedIn

“It was a surreal experience to see myself as a real-life size statue!” she continued. “It made me recognize that anything is possible if you believe in your cause and are willing to give back! I hope you can pursue your passions and causes and make a difference in this world.”

Venezuelan-born Beatris Mendez Gandica is a senior program manager at Microsoft and a self-described “tech and diversity enthusiast.” Not only is she a trailblazer in her own accord simply by being a Latina in tech, but she also uses her platform to advocate for children of color and young women to learn how to code, with her non-profit the Nuevo Foundation. 

“If you know me, you know how passionate I am when it comes to teaching kids how to code and showing them that anything is possible,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

Currently, the #IfThenSheCan art exhibit is the largest collection of women statues ever to be exhibited together. And there’s a reason AAAS and Lyda Hill chose the medium of statues to represent women in STEM. It’s a medium that has historically been used to celebrate and venerate powerful men. 

“Think for a minute, when was the last time that you saw a statue of a woman in a public place?” wrote Mendez Gandica. According to a recent study commissioned by former U.S. treasurer Rosie Rios, “less than half a dozen statues of real American women exist outdoors” in the top ten cities in the U.S., plus Washington D.C. and San Francisco.

Luckily, times are changing!

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