(WTNH) – Latina women make up about 1.6% of senior executives in the nation’s largest companies. A Latina woman heads up manufacturing and assembly at Pratt and Whitney right here in Connecticut.

“I am the Vice President of Manufacturing and Assembly for the U.S. sites,” said Raquel Rivera. “I have about 5,000 people working for me, I’m responsible for the quality, delivery and cost, and the safety of our employees.”

News 8’s Dennis House met up with Rivera at the Pratt and Whitney factory in Middletown where jet engines for commercial, private, and military jets are made. Rivera was born and raised in Puerto Rico and lived in public housing with her single mother and three brothers.

They moved to Massachusetts when she was 15 in the hope of a better life and education. It was there Rivera faced and conquered a big obstacle of not speaking English.

“I came here when I was 15 and I had to work hard to be able to master the language and get ready for college,” Rivera explained.

It was about that time Rivera’s mother, Elsie, got a job on the assembly line at Raytheon, now Pratt and Whitney’s parent company. It exposed Raquel to a whole new world.

“She used to come out and brag about working closely with engineers and she influenced me actually to go into engineering,” Raquel said.

Engineering is the backbone of Pratt and Whitney. It takes plenty of serious brainpower to design and build multi-million dollar engines that power planes around the world. Due to the sensitive and top secret classified work done at Pratt and Whitney, News 8 cameras were not allowed in the factory.

One of the products made that are the engines for the Airbus 320.

“I went to school, got a degree, Pratt and Whitney was recruiting at my school,” Raquel said. I did an internship. When I saw the product, it was love at first sight.”

Raquel climbed the corporate ladder at Pratt and Whitney for 25 years and said a big part of her job is helping other women achieve their goals. When she started at the company, there were a handful of women in her field. There are now hundreds.