NACME in the News
Minority Report: How Are Non-White Workers Faring In Westchester?
What is it like to be a minority in Westchester's business community?
Troubling Statistics for African Americans in STEM Careers
If you were to walk into any technology-driven enterprise in Westchester back in the 1970s, you would be hard-pressed to find one person of color among the ranks of engineers. That’s because minorities in the field of engineering were nearly nonexistent in Westchester 40 years ago—or anywhere in the US, according to Irving Pressley McPhail, EdD, of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) in White Plains. As NACME’s CEO, McPhail is focused on increasing the number of statistically underrepresented minority students earning degrees in engineering (minority students defined as African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Native Americans/Alaskans; interestingly, Asian Americans are not considered an underrepresented minority in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields). NACME does this by providing scholarship money to a network of elite universities that then recruit, enroll, retain, educate, and graduate these students.
In 2013, the number of minorities entering the workforce with engineering credentials was an estimated 13.4 percent, according to McPhail. In spite of these gains, McPhail is concerned. “The problem is that underrepresented minority students make up a much larger percent of total population than 13.4 percent,” he says.
Perhaps of even greater concern is the fact that African Americans are not keeping pace with other minority groups with respect to gains in engineering. In 2013, 9 percent of the total number of engineering degrees awarded to minorities went to Hispanic students, while 3.2 percent went to African Americans and 1.2 to Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
As an African American himself, McPhail says, “I believe there is a real crisis in the African-American community across the board…and in what’s happening in our schools. There are far too few of our young people who understand engineering and how exciting STEM careers are... We have to stay focused on this issue; if we don’t, we [the global technology-driven firms] run the risk of losing our competitive edge in STEM.”
Hispanic Businesses Becoming More Mainstream
Fannie Aleman, president of the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in White Plains, says there’s a major cultural change happening within Westchester’s Hispanic business community. “We are evolving, remaining true to our roots, while still becoming part of mainstream America—breaking free of traditional thinking and becoming more strategic,” she says.
Aleman also explains that the strong growth in Hispanic and Latino businesses in Westchester can be attributed, in part, to these business owners making a shift into less-traditional business arenas. “Today, more Hispanic business owners are looking to open a business in high-growth industries and where they can fill a market need,” she explains. In another break from tradition, she notes, “We are pushing to have more women break into industries like STEM and construction that were traditionally dominated by men.”
Aleman suggests that the biggest challenges facing Hispanic and Latino business owners in Westchester are not actually unique to Latino-owned businesses. “The biggest challenges are associated with licensing and regulations because many small business owners don’t have the time to navigate confusing websites, paperwork, et cetera. But I think this is true for all small business owners—not just Latinos and not just minorities,” she says. Read more.