Andrea Garland is paving the way for Latina women in STEM
Andrea Garland is the program director for RIDE Solutions. It’s a Roanoke-Alleghany Regional Commission initiative aimed at reducing traffic, improving air quality, and informing residents about available transportation options.
Andrea Garland has always wished to work as an engineer. Her interest in transportation stems from her childhood experiences in Columbia. She moved to the United States in 2005 to pursue her passion. She earned her master’s degree from Virginia Tech. However, the journey wasn’t as simple as it seemed. As Garland recalls, while having a Latino adviser was beneficial, it was very difficult to get the same support in the classroom.
“You see a lot of diversity in those engineering programs, but not necessarily a lot of women,” Garland told WDBJ7. And I believe I was the only woman of Latin descent at that time.
Based on her past experience, Garland decided to collaborate with Roanoke City Transportation and Roanoke City Public Schools on STEM-related events through her role as the regional sustainable transportation director. At Westside Elementary, where she has just debuted a Traffic Garden initiative.
Garland believes that children needs a role model. They need someone who look like them and who have been in the same field where they aspire to go. “They should be able to look at them and think ‘oh I can do that’.” Therefore, Garland asserts that representation matters at all levels.
Despite accounting for 8.1% of the population, Latinas make up only 2% of the STEM workforce in the United States. According to Bevlee Watford, executive director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Enhancing Engineering Diversity, “Latina women face numerous challenges.”
There are also cultural issues to consider, such as the fact that women typically raise families and work at home. According to Watford, many young Hispanic women are slowly defying the norm.