Women’s Equality Day: Latinas Have Far Way to Go, Need More Investment

Aug 26, 2022
10:05 AM

HOPE Leadership Institute members meet with legislators at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. (Courtesy of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality)

On Women’s Equality Day, the fight for full equality for women is far from over, particularly for Latinas. Despite being demographic, civic, and economic powerhouses, Latinas continue to face immense barriers ranging from educational access challenges, sexism and discrimination in the workplace, and persistent wage disparities (Latinas have the widest wage gap among all women) that limit the financial capital needed to start businesses, run political campaigns, and ultimately achieve true economic and political parity.

A new report by USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) and Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) finds that one of the best ways to combat disparities for Latinas and for historically marginalized communities in California is to support and invest in Latina leadership, which is flourishing across the state because of organizations like HOPE. 

The report, titled “Leading with HOPE: Supporting Latina Leaders for a Better California,” finds that Latinas are key to the future of the state both in terms of demographics —as 39 percent of the women in California and mothers to more than half the children under 18— and as leaders who tend to lead in ways that center equity, build bridges, and will be key to sustaining a robust multiracial democracy. Despite the transformational impact of Latina leaders in local communities showcased in the study, the report highlights that less than two percent of philanthropic dollars nationwide go towards Latino-led nonprofits and Latina leadership development.

In a state where Latinos are the plurality and Latinas make up the largest share of women, the dramatic lack of philanthropic investment is evident and unacceptable.

Despite the challenges and lack of investment, Latinas have made remarkable progress in assuming new positions of leadership, particularly in the public and non-profit sectors, and leadership development programs such as the HOPE Leadership Institute are key to imparting the skills, creating the networks, and building the infrastructure needed to lead and build power among Latinas in California.

Latinas connect their lived experience or their Latina identity to their work, community engagement, and commitment to see through structural changes for communities of color. Networks of support like the one established by the HOPE Leadership Institute help Latinas magnify their talents, and alumni credit the network with empowering them to stand up for issues affecting Black and Brown communities, women, and low-income communities. 

By investing in Latinas, we stand to gain more adaptive and responsive leaders capable of supporting stronger and more equitable communities. Where Latinas are leading, Californians are well served. Where Latina voices are heard, equitable strategies are put in place to advance all citizens.

This report shows us what we stand to gain, and what we stand to lose at this crucial moment in history. We can no longer afford not to center gender, race, and ethnicity in every single conversation about the economy and civic society.

On a day that commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted some women in the United States the right to vote, let’s acknowledge the incredibly important role women’s organizing and advocacy have in enshrining women’s rights and remember how the voices of women of color were excluded from this progress.

We now have the opportunity to build up the power of a movement that can uplift all communities by cultivating and strengthening Latina leadership. Imagine what we could accomplish if Latinas received equitable support.

Until we can celebrate a Women’s Equality Day where all women have equal opportunities, representation, and support, we will continue to do this work, and we urge the philanthropic community to join us in this fight.


As the CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) for 22 years, Helen Torres has strategically built a Latina leadership and advocacy infrastructure in the state of California, composed of thousands of civically engaged Latina leaders serving in elected and appointed office, business, philanthropic, and community work. Twitter: @HelenIrisTorres, @HOPELatinas