By 2060, over 30 percent of the American population will be Latino. That is almost double what it stands at right now. But if you look at where it can be decades from now, what you might want to look at is creating a movement for one half of the community that is not getting enough attention – Latina women.
Shaping the New Minority
The reality of the U.S. becoming a “minority majority” country grows closer as more local communities dramatically shift in demographics. Even outside the big cities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, it is the increase of Latinos in small towns that reshape economies, leadership roles, and culture. There soon might be more places like Wilder, Idaho which has an all-Latino city council and a Latina woman as mayor.
States that have had seen their demographics change are finally seeing it change. In Virginia, two Latina women changed the landscape of their House of Representatives after winning over incumbents. One of them, Peruvian-American Elizabeth Guzman, became the Spanish-language response to President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address.
In the 2018 political season, 32 Latinas were nominated for House seats from the record-breaking 185. Along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory in New York, four more Latinas won their elections. There is still quite a ways to go, however, as 7.1 percent of women of color cover the total members of Congress currently, with less than two percent coming from Latinas.
This is a big victory for Latinas in political history. Before 2018 there were only ten of them in Congress — one in the Senate and nine in the House. Now states like Texas, which have the second-largest Hispanic population in America, have finally sent the first Latinas to Congress after decades.
There have been local victories that also ring power to Latinas everywhere. Michelle Lujan Grisham won the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, and eventually the governor’s race. She is now the first Democratic Latina governor in the nation’s history.
She Looks Just Like Me
This is a simple matter of representation for girls that see powerful Latinas in office. There is nothing more striking to a young girl that can affect their future than seeing someone like them in doing something important. If we double the number of Latinas in government now, the number will increase exponentially as the years pass on.
There are two reasons why corporate America will tilt towards Latinas. First, Nielsen Media Group, the most recognized media research companies in the world, has told us that Latinas make the decisions in spending at home. Second, their reports say that Latinas are outperforming the men in education and career advancement.
Not Enough Dinero
There are multiple tweets, blog posts, and infographics that show a deep wage gap that hurts women by race. In the case of Latinas, it shows the stark realization that those who identify as Hispanic or Latino are hit by the largest wage gap than any other racial or ethnic group. What that means is that for any $1 earned by an American man, a Latina earns $63 cents.
What must continue is equal pay data collection so that companies disclose what they pay their employees. That way the government can push for new practices that protect against pay discrimination. The problem is that at the moment is that the Trump administration halted the program, making it harder to see the wage gap and easier to dismiss.
The existing discrimination Latina women deal with in the workforce is reprehensible. In 2014 there was a case in Miami that won in favor of five immigrant women who had been sexually harassed and raped at a tomato-picking plant in Florida. It was a victory for the women thanks to the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal enforcement agency, but as of now, it is the only one that is pursuing these kinds of cases for workers.
Proud and Poderosa
There’s a lot of the ways Latinos are seen, and the women in particular, that need to change or outright thrown out. They are more than a spicy curvaceous stereotype with a temper problem. They also hold jobs that are much different than a maid or gardener.
The dysfunction that is deeply ingrained in Latino culture is not something that will easily go away. Culturally, we like to stay humble but we are in flux as immigrants in countries with a very different system. Some families will still cling onto strict gender roles when it comes to the future of their daughters as well.
The high school graduation rate for Latinas jumped 14 points between 2003 and 2013. However, when Latinas are looking for educational opportunities they can feel a disparity. They are still the least likely to complete college when compared to white women.
Besides the already-existing problems with an insufficient school system, there are cultural and language barriers that make educational advancement difficult. They continue on a string of limited job options that comes from trade schools or community colleges instead of an advanced degree.
Media should change along with the demographics, and newsrooms sorely need it. They have barely any women of color in their newsrooms, across almost all races and ethnicities. In the case of Latinas, there are almost no political commentators or investigative journalists in most major publications.
The Millennial, Technical Latina
The newer generations of Latinas are part of the reason why these changes are happening. They feel good about themselves at work compared to other women, yet still, value their heritage and want to be seen for who they are. More importantly, they are taking more time to take care of themselves and trying approaches at parenthood that are very different than that of their moms.
Latinas are still grossly overrepresented in some of the most lowest-paying jobs. 44 percent of all Latino businesses are owned by Latinas, but they are also the smallest and less likely to grow. But if they were to match the growth of other women-owned business, they could add $155 million to the economy.
The favorable growth trend for Latinas could be even better if linked to tech-based jobs. Around two percent of Latinas earn undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees in the U.S., and research has shown that a team built on inclusivity can bring out more innovative solutions. We need to tap into all of our talent pool to keep competitive in a global economy.
Latinas in STEM can also push for equality beyond borders. Non-profit organizations exist that connect and train women in Peru and Mexico among others that not only teach skills but build movements. The young girls that come from those initiatives eventually make big changes in the tech sectors and governments they grew up in.
The Crazed and Uninsured
Healthcare has become a powerful topic in this country over the past decade. Currently, nearly 20 percent of Latinas are uninsured after the effects of Obamacare. Should things slide back towards pre-Obamacare levels, however, the rate of Latina women might rise up to 43 percent once again.
The phrase “la loca” is deeply rooted in Latino culture when it comes to women, yet the community does nothing about the stigma that comes with mental health. There are artists and organizations that have started initiatives with that give communities of color the resources to deal with mental health issues.
There is also the tricky stereotype of a Latina youth pregnancy which has made its image known to the mainstream. The true reasons why it happens to fall under many social, economic, or political factors that affect women and their communities. What can’t be denied is at as of 2012, around 35 percent of Latino youth were living in persistent poverty, and as young parents will continue this cycle with their children.
Latinas Outside of America
This spills out into Latin America as well. Around 31 million people in Latin America suffer from depression, but most do not seek or receive treatment of it. Along with all the stigmas attached to it, it also deals a heavy blow to a country’s much-needed development.
Although there have been several female leaders in Latin America from Argentina to Brazil, much of the region still has grim day-to-day lives. The cities with the most dangerous public transport systems for women are in Latin America – Bogota, Mexico City, and Lima. They have to deal with high rates of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and in some cases disappearances.
The commitment to making a national and global impact on Latinas is something that must be celebrated. We have had powerful women like Michelle Bachelet and Sonia Sotomayor who have shown us inspiration and resiliency. From this growing wave of Latino power, we must support our strong women and become the pioneers they were meant to be.