Today, November 18, is International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM. This date has been selected to celebrate and highlight the work and barriers of LGBTQIA+ people in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This date is symbolic of the anniversary of American Astronomer and gay activist Frank Kameny’s US Supreme Court fight against workplace discrimination. We recently sat down with Jaime Diaz, a Senior Data Scientist and insurance professional at The Hartford, to highlight his STEM career and learn more about his journey to where he is now.
For Jaime, deciding that he wanted to go into the STEM field was the easy part, the challenge came when he had to decide what exactly he wanted to do within STEM. “There was no one else in my family in STEM, so I had very few people to bounce ideas with,” said Jaime in my recent interview with him, “I was able to get some industry networking done in high school through non-profit initiatives such as Junior Achievements, which helped to broaden my understanding of STEM and corporate life.” Jaime’s story highlights the importance of getting students involved in STEM early on in their academic careers. Exposing students to STEM careers and STEM professionals through informal learning can help them learn what they are or are not interested in, which can guide their future careers.
After switching his major a variety of times in college, Jaime graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Management Information Systems. Upon graduating college, Jaime was drawn to The Hartford through the Operations, Technology, Data & Analytics Leadership Development Program because he was able to rotate through a variety of different jobs before deciding on this final position. “I am grateful for this experience,” said Jaime, “as I went into this company thinking I wanted to do project management but once I rotated through that job, I very quickly realized it was not the right fit for me.” It was in his final rotation, as a data engineer in claim data science, where Jaime found his niche in STEM- this is the STEM career he wanted to build on for himself. At this point, he started his Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to continue building his skillset.
Through his successful career at The Hartford, Jaime has had the opportunity to work on some really amazing projects. “One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on was during my tenure on The Hartford’s Internet of Things team. We were a new team with a lot of great ideas and a wide variety of skillsets to get it done. Our goal was to use internet-connected devices to reduce the risk for our business customers and their employees.” Here are just some of the examples of the products the team worked to develop:
- Water sensors that will detect a burst pipe before it happens
- Harnesses and belts that reduce long-term strain and back injuries
- Telematics devices on vehicles that reduce distracted driving
- Air quality sensors that can alert a construction site of dangerous gasses
Jaime’s role on this team was as the data scientist. “I had many responsibilities such as designing statistically verifiable experiments to ensure these products are reducing risk, analyzing the data from these devices to give feedback to our customers, and acting as the data science subject matter expert when talking with new companies and startups looking for us to use their devices.” He went on to explain that this was a role that was very outside of his comfort zone, “but I learned so much, had a great time with the team, and felt good knowing that what we were doing was having a positive impact on the individuals who work for our customers.” –Jaime Diaz
Jaime is a strong advocate for DEIA efforts, participating in a variety of programs such as a panelist on racial bias and LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace. Jaime celebrates a large amount of progress that has been made in recent years, while also recognizing the work that still needs to be done.
These are just some of the strides Jaime noted have been made in recent years:
- In 2020, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, which protects employees from being fired if their sexual orientation or gender identity was the reason.
- Workplaces have been swapping out gendered language to inclusive language.
- Some organizations, such as The Hartford, have opened gender-neutral bathrooms.
“The rise of LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, which are ‘extracurricular clubs’ in the workplace, have empowered LGBTQ+ workers and their allies to advocate for change and allow for an environment where we can have truthful and direct dialogue. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to remove LGBTQ+ discrimination from our workplace.”
I asked Jaime why he feels it is important to have individuals from all backgrounds in STEM careers, this is what he had to say:
“Having wide representation across all backgrounds and demographics is extremely important in the STEM field. Speaking specifically on data science and artificial intelligence, we need to have individuals across all backgrounds working on projects in order to reduce bias. You may have heard of image prediction models which were prone to error when detecting people with darker skin, or resume scanners which have a bias against women. Individuals and companies have a social responsibility and obligation to ensure they reduce bias and remain ethical with their practices and products. Having individuals across diverse backgrounds on the same team will allow them to point out flaws in projects that are pertinent to their identity and will help to reduce bias.”
Jaime represents a true embodiment of our mission here at the Science Center. We were so thrilled to be able to highlight Jaime and his work to celebrate International LGBTQ+ People in STEM Day.
Katelyn Rutty is the Communications Coordinator at the Connecticut Science Center where she manages all of the online content platforms. She has a Masters in Business Administration from Western New England University.