Latina Engineer Diana Iracheta Tapped Into Her Fear to Lead the Charge in STEM
No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to be a trailblazer today.” What happens is something much quieter — even softer. The path of a trailblazer is much like going on a hike — you put one foot in front of the other. When you’re the first to travel that hike, you often don’t know the path or where it will lead. For Diana Iracheta, the road that led her to become a leader within STEM was much like this.
In 2019, after earning a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Illinois University, Iracheta created Latina Engineer. It is a community that wants to establish a network of ingenieras across the globe and a database of resources they could tap into.
Later, she created the Diana Iracheta Foundation NFP and the International Latina Engineer Week conference. The rest was herstory.
Iracheta wanted to create more visibility for Latinas in engineering
The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics notes that women only represent about 18% of the total number of people within STEM occupations. The study finds that only 20% of Latinos go into a STEM career. For reference, Asians take up 39%, Caucasians take up 25%, and African Americans take up 18%.
“Latinas represent only 2-3% in STEM, so many ingenieras are scattered throughout the country. Being able to connect with all of us was a challenging task,” Diana Iracheta tells mitú.
She continues, “Being a Latina in engineering, I felt the need to have more representation, role models, and a community. I began by sharing my story through a blog and Instagram, where I soon met many other ingenieras.”
The result? Iracheta now connects with over 16,000 accounts and hosts multiple events throughout the year, connecting ingenieras across Chicago, Dallas, and California.
The Mexican-born engineer explains, “Some of the things we do are a free mentoring program, conference with role models, career fair, and have awarded [over $12,000] in scholarships since 2020. We host about 600 attendees for our annual conference and have a network of over 10,000 [Latinas].”
Her Latina culture provided the foundation she needed to push forward despite difficulties
Iracheta is proud of her Latina roots. The founder and entrepreneur was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and migrated to Chicago, Illinois, at 12 with her family. She was the first of her family to graduate from a United States college.
She tells mitú, “Latinas are proud of their roots and willing to help get us there. They put [in] hard work, and that makes Latinas in STEM stand out. Every ingeniera is a role model, and little by little, each one of us, even by just doing our engineering job, is changing stereotypes and paving the way for the future generations.”
“From day one, I connected with other Latinas who helped me learn how to start an organization, and social media, and even helping me run the organization. Our non-profit is run by 100% Latinas in Engineering volunteers,” Iracheta explains.
Something else Latinas excel at? Hermanahood. That’s why providing resources for current ingenieras and aspiring ones is at the heart of what she does.
That’s why Iracheta is offering free conferences and scholarships at her International Latina Engineer Week conference this fall.
But running her business and foundation hasn’t come without ups and downs
In addition to running Latina Engineer and its subsets, Iracheta works as a full-time engineer.
“Working as a full-time engineer, but also as a founder, has been challenging. My organization now requires full attention, so I put many hours outside [of] my 9-to-5 into this passion,” she asserts.
The Mexican engineer continues, “Since our community is also small, it’s hard to find role models, mentors, and speakers that represent our community. But every day, more Latinas are stepping up to help us support and inspire many ingenieras.”
Despite the occasional time constraints, Iracheta has one philosophy she lives by.
“Take one step at a time,” she proclaims.
“There are a lot of resources out there for many areas; you just have to focus on one thing, learn it, and move into the next. Success does not happen overnight, so be patient and remember to take breaks,” Iracheta advises.
She also believes that fear is a tool that Latinas can use to their benefit.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway. Anything new will always be scary, so it’s crucial to identify it and not let that stop you. This is how I have been able to continue