When Dr. Ann Quiroz Gates went back to school to get her doctorate in computer science in her 40s, she was determined to get more Hispanics, especially Hispanic women, involved in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) fields.
Then Nelly Delgado walked into her University of Texas at El Paso class.
“When I realized she was really talented, I asked her to join a research group,” Gates says. Delgado changed her major, got her degree, and now works for Microsoft.
“That told me I could make a difference.”
Gates went on to become the chair of Computer Science at UTEP, an AT&T Distinguished Professor, and now is provost for UTEP.
In 2004, she founded and is still executive director of the Computer Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions. She is director of the National Science Foundation-funded CyberShare Center of Excellence that advances interdisciplinary education and research.
She works to address the underrepresentation of women of color in tech and STEMM opportunities as a member of the National Academies Committee.
“My passion that I brought to all these positions has been the recruitment and advancement of Hispanics,” Gates says.
“Whether in computer, STEMM or academia, it’s important we have voices at the table. It’s important for us to be in decision-making whether at the city, state or national level, or in companies. We have to have voices from other people so we have a product that meets the needs of different groups. If we are going to advance science, technology and engineering, we need to include people from different groups.”
And when women are added to the mix, she says, “you’re going to get a whole new perspective to addressing problems.”
Since she founded CAHSI in 2004, the alliance has grown to include 60 partners in education, industry, non-governmental agencies and other entities from the public and private sector.
The program was nationally recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a “bright Spot in Hispanic Education” in 2015. The group just received a $9.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Gates says CAHSI is working to have more middle and high school teachers who are certified in computing, sponsoring hackathons and camps, telling students it is critical to learn these skills to be competitive.
“As a community, we face challenges one might not see on the affluent East Coast. In order for us to have equity, students need technology."
Gates adds, “We have a vision that by 2030, Hispanics will make up 20% of the computing workforce.”