Latina Computing Professionals Panel at Tapia 2022!

by Adriana Alvarado Garcia, Karla Badillo-Urquiola, Brianna Posadas, Wendy Roldan

Latina women, historically underrepresented in computing [1], face additional challenges starting their careers. To bring awareness to this issue, we organized the panel “Becoming a Latina Computing Professional: Barriers and Accomplishments” for the 2022 Tapia Conference. We enjoyed reconnecting at Tapia and sharing our lived experiences with current Latinas navigating the job market and the recruiters of future generations of computing professionals. Based on our conversations and collective reflections, we summarize three key takeaways: 

Job Searching as an Interdisciplinary Scholar Takes Persistence 

A key theme in our conversations was navigating the job market as interdisciplinary scholars. Wendy shared how her research on children and families, equity, and design education positioned her well to interview for academic, non-profit, and industry roles, but it also came at a tradeoff. Brianna shared her experience positioning her work in a new space like agriculture. Being on the job market as an interdisciplinary scholar can be tricky, as the candidate can be “too much” or “not enough” of one discipline depending on the institution. It also makes the job search longer, as finding an institution that appreciates and supports an interdisciplinary research agenda takes more discussion and negotiation.   

Career Choices are Informed by Personal Values and Virtues

Navigating the job market during COVID-19 helped illuminate the importance of centering our values and the kind of life we wanted to live. For example, managing the dissertation and the academic job market simultaneously contributed to Karla’s stress-induced illness. She had to prioritize her health and family when choosing the right department. Likewise, when comparing her job options, Wendy faced the challenging position of letting go of her dream to become a professor. Instead, she prioritized her happiness and lifestyle. Growing up in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, Adriana prioritized large cities over small towns.

Community is the Key to Success 

Our stories demonstrated how critical it is to have a strong support system to learn about the “hidden curriculum” of the job search. We all built a network of peers and mentors who share our identities in the Human-Computer Interaction and Computer Science fields by attending mentoring events such as the CHI-Mentoring workshop (organized since 2010). In addition, the Tapia conference is a prime resource for connecting with other Latino computer scientists. Our mentors advised us through our job search, educated us on the unspoken rules of interviewing, and served as sounding boards as we debated offers. We also asked them questions about aspects of the position that were important to us, but not always covered by recruiters: Is there a strong Latino community? Is there a Spanish-speaking Catholic church? Is there support for spousal hires?

We call on the computing community to create supportive spaces for the underrepresented and to promote transparency in the process of recruiting for academia, industry, and other career paths. We look forward to continuing these discussions in more spaces for other Latina computing professionals to share. We thank Dr. Manuel Perez Quiñones for being our strong ally.  

[1] https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/women/