The Unstoppable Women

Hispanic Community October 2021 PREMIUM
Latinas’ successful participation in so many fields has been outstanding.

Although Latinos and Latinas enter the first grade in about the same proportion, in the years after that Latinas far outperform their male counterparts. More graduate from high school, from two-year and four-year colleges, and more Latinas attend graduate schools.

This is an admirable accomplishment, for they have had to overcome far more obstacles than their male counterparts. They persevered and succeeded.

Unstoppable Women

Who is this generation of super achievers? What do they represent and where are they headed? What obstacles still lie ahead?

Telemundo, the Latino media enterprise, cognizant of Latina accomplishments but still curious, commissioned an in-depth study. It revealed more than many expected and led to Latinas being dubbed “Unstoppable Women.”

I studied the extensive report, Defining the Cultural Narrative and Reaching New Horizons: LATINAS POWERING FORWARD. I urge all to read it.

I highlight but a few of the major issues eloquently presented in that study.

Factual and prophetic

The very first words in the Foreword are powerful, inspirational and prophetic.

There is no better time to be a woman in the U.S. than today and Latinas are at the forefront of the change to come. We recognize Latinas’ significant strides towards greatness and their important influence on women across the country.

Prominent Latinas are breaking out, breaking down and breaking through historical barriers in politics, business, entertainment, sports and academia that once seemed impenetrable.

They are working from a deep sense of purpose, exercising their collective power to change the conversation and take on bigger and better opportunities.

The study encourages all Latinas to recognize their value and their future potential. The nation’s 29 million Latinas’ achievements since 2000 are extensive and admirable. Today they remain “driven to do more, speak louder and take on positions of influence that were less attainable in the past.”

To the surprise of many and to the discomfort of a few, Latina self-image has shifted from “careful and reserved to positive assertiveness.” Determined to improve their social standing and establish their civic, social and economic importance, Latinas have forged ahead in education, earnings, and social visibility. They are ambitious in the best sense of the word.

Their commitment to inclusion, family values and a deep respect for where they came from has impressed and influenced others.

Younger Latinas delay marriage and children

America is aging, but Hispanics are a youthful cohort. Latinas under the age of 40 grew a remarkable 55 percent from 2000 to 2017 while the proportion of non-Latina females in that age cohort went down by 1 percent. Of the 29 million Latinas in the U.S., 65 percent are under the age of 40.

Latinas are delaying marriage and childbearing as education and careers become increasingly important and attainable. Never-married millennial Latinas increased from 27 percent to 47 percent from 2000 to 2017. The average age when Latinas have their first child increased as well from 22.7 to 24.8 years during the same period.

Impressive academic achievements

Millennial Latinas seized and sometimes created academic opportunities. Latinas with an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree jumped from 17 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2017.

This 70 percent growth outpaced their Latino male and non-Latina millennial counterparts, who increased 56 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

More Latinas are working outside the home

Their numbers have increased exponentially: The workforce growth of Latinas is outpacing both non-Latinas and Latino males for the first time in history. To be precise, the Latina workforce grew 93 percent compared to 71 percent for Latino males and 13 percent for non-Latinas from 2000 to 2017.

Employed Latinas increased household income immensely. This, in turn, fueled the rapid growth of Hispanic buying power, which reached $1.5 trillion in 2018 and is projected to grow to $1.9 trillion in 2023.

Latina income impacted growth in many traditional industries like beauty, dining, and department stores, and also in other sectors such as investments, which registered an impressive growth of 247 percent in 2018 over 2014.

Latinas and technology

Young Latinas are mobile and sociable, as well as comfortable and adept with technology. “They are driving media consumption by spending a large part of their time devouring media.”

They spend more than 30 hours every week watching television and 22 hours a week viewing videos, using apps or surfing the internet with their smartphones.

A full 88 percent of Latinas own a smartphone. Latinas also encourage group-viewing activities that bring together family and friends to view soccer matches, boxing, novelas and movies.

For all of their interest and participation, there is ironically a lack of representation in the media. The percentage of top-grossing films with major Latina characters reached 7 percent in 2017 but fell to 4 percent in 2018.

Latinas occupied less than 1 percent of industry roles as directors and producers in the top 1,200 most popular films over the past 12 years.  This is an obvious target for change.

Politics now and in the future

The 2020 election marked the first time that Hispanics were the largest racial or ethnic minority group eligible to vote.  At 13.3 percent, they surpassed African-Americans at 12.5 percent.

Of the 20 Latinas who have ever served in Congress, 14 are serving today, demonstrating recent gains in Latina representation.

A bleak shortcoming

It is sad to note, however, that Latinas and their families are less likely to receive the healthcare they need. Why? Negative cultural barriers, limited access to affordable healthcare and insufficient information are among the factors that limit participation.

In 2017, among non-elderly adults, a full 25 percent of Hispanics had no health insurance, compared to 8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. These shortcomings must be corrected.

Reopening doors for Latinas

Latinas’ successful participation in so many fields has been outstanding. It is encouraging younger Latinas to dream, to plan ahead, to attend college.

Unfortunately, a Sisyphus curse, the pandemic, derailed many of those plans. Hispanic college enrollment has fallen: this must be addressed and reversed.

Latinas must be helped to continue their successful trajectories. Reopening doors for Latinas is essential so they can move relentlessly to a more influential and prosperous future. (Hopefully their influence will include them encouraging more Latino men to finish college.)  

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