Latinas are making things happen. Despite strong traditional gender norms and expectations Latinas are putting themselves and the Latino community on the map. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that by 2020 the rate of Latinas in the workforce will increase to 56.1 %. Economic empowerment is necessary in order for women to lead independent lives. Latinas are outnumbering Latino males in higher education. With our growing participation in higher education and in the labor force we can expect to see higher incomes and greater participation in professional fields by Latinas. We still have to work hard to overcome systemic racism, poverty, and cultural gender expectations, but the fact that we are willing to fight against these social barriers without compromising our cultural heritage and individuality is praise worthy. We are gaining momentum and from now on there is no stopping it. On March 8, 2013 the organization Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) unveiled The Economic Status of Latinas Report. Not only does this report give information about Latinas in the U.S., it also highlights positive findings about Latina women, putting special focus on Latinas in California. The findings of this report and other studies on the Latina population show the progress that we are making in our lives and communities. Today, we can proudly proclaim to be an unquestionable force in America.
Latina numbers are growing in higher education
Although the numbers of Latinas in public schools do not translate into the same number of Latinas who enter four year universities, there are now more Latinas enrolling in college than before. This is a step forward. Many would like to argue that our culture has a large impact on the lack of enrollment in institutes of higher education, but the fact is that our socioeconomic status and school systems play a greater role. The fact that we are attending four year universities more than before is indicative of the progressive changes we are willing make for ourselves, our communities and the country. Pursuing higher education is only a positive gain for us and our community. With growing numbers of Latino males and females pursuing higher education we are creating a positive trend in our communities which can positively influence and inform future generations of Latinos who previously did not have access to a support system or mentors to help them navigate through the college and financial aid application process.
What we have to address: Many young Latinos attend public schools where test scores are more important than preparing students to attend college. Latinas who are the most affected by the recession are ones with low education. Our school system is failing us. There is no reason why public schools should prepare some students better than others for college. As citizens of the U.S. we should be afforded quality public education and be prepared for high income earning careers.
Latinas play an important role in the economic sector
Latinas are entrepreneurs and our businesses have a great success rate. Before the current recession Latina owned businesses in California generated $13 billion in sales and employed over 700,000 workers. By 2020 our increasing numbers in the workforce combined with our growing numbers in higher education should positively impact the economic sector of the U.S.
What we have to address: the fact that Latina women especially in California earn 42 cents for every dollar earned by a white male. If we work as much as another person and if we meet the demands of our contracts then there should be no reason why we are earning 42 cents to another person’s dollar. We must demand equal pay for equal work and endorse elected officials who support such measures.
Latinas are part of the changing demographic of the U.S political sector
In the history of the United States the last election saw a larger amount of women elected to government positions. Latinas were no exception. Our numbers as elected officials are growing. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), 5,850 Latinos currently serve as elected officials in the U.S. in all levels of government. 9 Latinos serve in state wide offices, including the Office of the Governor. Let’s not forget that a proud Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, serves as a Supreme Court Justice.
Let’s give ourselves some credit because,
“[i]n 1996, Latino elected officials served in 34 states; by 2010, that number had
increased to 43. Between 1996 and 2010, the number of Latina elected officials
grew faster than the number of male Latino officials the number of Latinas
increased by 105%, compared to 37% for male Latinos. As a result, the Latina
share of all Latino elected officials grew from 24% in 1996 to 32% in 2010” (NALEO).
Also, our numbers as voters matter. Total numbers of Latino voters have been increasing. The fact is that most of the Latino population is not of voting age yet, it is up to our generation to influence our younger generations to be active in the political arena. If the last presidential election demonstrated anything, it is that we are an electoral power. There is no reason to stop now.
What we need to address: The numbers are still not representative of our population. Our community needs more political involvement. Our voices do matter. It’s time we begin to represent ourselves politically and our population numbers should reflect our representation in government. Let’s get involved in taking office either locally, nationally or internationally. Let’s vote! More importantly, let’s motivate and educate younger Latino/a generations about the importance of civic participation.
Let’s be the generation that leads the Latino community to reach its full potential. Latinas are an emerging powerhouse. Our multicultural perspectives can enlighten U.S. policies both domestically and internationally. Let’s change the negative perceptions that for so long have been used as a scapegoat for politicians who are not worried about investing in our communities. Let’s strive for fair representation in our government and equal opportunities both in the economic and in the educational sector. Let’s stop giving fuel to racist and prejudiced allegations against our Hispanic culture and get involved. The numbers don’t lie. Latinas are making a name for themselves. We are not the kind of women who wait for things to change; we are taking charge of our lives and making this happen, not only for ourselves and our communities, but for our country as well. We are no longer sitting on the side lines. We are the movers and shakers of this generation and for many to come. Let’s give credit where credit is due.