WASHINGTON, DC. — Latinas in the United States are making progress in a number of areas, in fact, “extraordinary progress,” according to findings presented at a gathering at the White House.
The graduation rate among young Latinas increased 15 percent from 2003 to 2013, and a greater number of Latinas are continuing on to college. The report also found that Hispanic women-owned businesses are growing at a faster rate than all women-owned businesses and represent more than $71 billion in revenue in 2014, with expectations it will increase further.
The findings were outlined Friday at a summit on Latina empowerment co-sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
“As one of the fastest-growing demographics in the US and the driving force behind a trillion dollar purchasing power, Latinas are redefining success and proving that when we invest in Latinas we invest in the success of our country,” said Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The report did note that while Latinas have made great strides, more than half are living near the poverty level, have less access to healthcare compared to other groups of women, and are more likely to earn less than their non-Hispanic white counterparts and Hispanic men.
That’s why, the report says, “it is critical and urgent” to invest in Hispanic women and girls, which are about one in five of the nation's females and will make up nearly one-third of the country’s female population by 2060.
“Latinas are the linchpin of the next generation. If we are to interrupt the cycle of disproportionate under-education and poverty among the Latino population, it is critical that we raise the education levels and living and working conditions of Latinas today,” the report states.
Its findings mirror data the White House Council of Economic Advisers released earlier this month that stated the Hispanic community as a whole has made significant gains during President Obama’s time in office.
While the findings on Latinas nationwide were part of the Friday program at the White House, the focus of the summit was on empowering a segment of the community that is growing in numbers and influence.
“Remember that no matter what room you are in and even if you are the only (Latina) one in the room, the people who you are sitting with may or may not know that what you know and what you bring to the table is important," said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and the highest-ranking Latina in the White House. "But you know that it’s important, and you know that they need to benefit from what it is that you bring to the table."
Muñoz added that “this country is only going to advance if we have the courage to assert ourselves and recognize that what we bring to it matters tremendously to the outcome."
Actor and activist Cristela Alonso, the first Latina to create and star in her own network television show “Cristela,” served as host of the event. She said that being in the White House inspires her and hopes it inspires other Latinas.
“Where I grew up, no one told me it was possible, because in my area we were too busy trying to survive, and when you’re taught to survive, you’re taught to not dream. Dream is for the wealthy," said Alonso.
"My mom’s dream job for me was to cut hair because even in a recession, people’s hair grows,” Alonso said with a chuckle. “She didn’t know that things were possible for me, but I always had something in me that said there was something more out there for me. I can’t explain how important this (being here) is.”