If the Latino community is the nation’s economic powerhouse, then Latinas are the engine. Today, Latinas make up one in five women in the US. They are attending college at higher rates than ever and contributing to a surge in the number of Latino-owned businesses.
Yet the statistics also tell another story. Latinas are overrepresented in some of the lowest-paying jobs and underrepresented in sectors of influence. Their families are still twice as likely to live in poverty in comparison to their white counterparts. With all of their potential, how do we ensure that Latinas have more equitable access to social and economic mobility?
The Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program brought together a group of Latinas to explore issues of identity and inclusion. The first panel addressed how race, ethnicity, and religion shape experiences at home and in the workplace. This diverse group of women reminded viewers that the Latino community is not monolithic. But embracing their Latina identity was important to them, as Latinos and Society’s Executive Director Abigail Golden-Vazquez explained.
Panelist Ariana Curtis, the curator of Latinx Studies at the National Museum of African American History and Culture pointed out that people are only able to claim identities “as they are made historically available.” She often finds herself in situations where she is the only Afro-Latina in the room. This is why she believes it is important to be an ambassador for her community.
The second panel of the event examined the impact Latina entrepreneurs are having on the US economy and the importance of investing in their growing businesses. Although 44 percent of all Latino businesses are Latina-owned, they are the smallest and least likely to scale. Eight percent have revenues of $100,000 or more and only one percent make one million dollars or more. Monika Mantilla, CEO of investment management firm Altura Capital, says that investors need a methodological change in order to help Latina businesses grow.
To create an environment that benefits all Latina women, we must ensure that we are pushing for systemic changes said Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels. Fostering these entrepreneurial ecosystems will increase opportunities for Latinas to build wealth and financial security for themselves and their families.
If Latina-owned businesses matched other women-owned businesses, they could add $155 billion and 80,000 new jobs to the economy. These proud Latina women are helping make this a reality. “Latinas are a powerful secret ingredient to the nation’s success,” Golden-Vazquez said.