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LULAC Women’s Conference proves Latinas are “America’s CEOs” 

Women leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are holding a milestone two-day national gathering of Latinas from across the United States and Puerto Rico, November 12-13 in New York City. This is LULAC’s first major in-person event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 marking the longest period in modern times for the country’s chief Latino advocacy organization without a national assembly.

“The journey to this point has been long and difficult given the uncertainty of our times, but we are ready and committed to making this a tremendous success,” says Elsie Valdes-Ramos, LULAC National Board Officer and Vice-President for Women. “This event matters because it is about the empowerment through the action of hundreds of women leaders who are coming together and tens of thousands more linked through social media. These are the women we want and need, to support each other, learn from one another, and make us even stronger in unity,” adds Valdes-Ramos.

Sindy Benavides, LULAC National CEO

The two-day LULAC Women’s Conference program includes plenary sessions, specialized panels, and interactive workshops that cover a wide range of timely topics including technology, mental health, general health equity, inclusion and diversity, federal careers, and women’s empowerment and leadership. Attendees confirmed included elected and appointed officials, community leaders, LULAC Women’s Commission members, and guests

“As we look ahead, the growth of the Latino community will double in just three decades. Latinas are at the heart of that growth and transformation,” says Sindy Benavides, LULAC National Chief Executive Officer. “The purpose of the LULAC Women’s Conference is to empower women by exchanging experiences so that we identify the most critical challenges we are all confronting daily, and the actions we need to take to overcome them.”

See conference catalog: Diverse Women in Action 

Latinas are “America’s CEOs” 

Two of the event’s principal organizers are Ralina Cardona, LULAC National Board Officer, and Sylvia Mata, LULAC Women’s Commissioner for the Northeast. Both are veteran social justice advocates in their communities who have served in elected and appointed positions. Also, they are staunch champions for Latinas, whom they call America’s CEOs, a fact borne out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were the hardest region early on, and the unknown of what was in the air, New York emerged almost like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes,” says Cardona. “We are looking forward to the women just sharing their best practices. We all know that Latina women already know how we are. I think now the world and country have seen how we are; multi-generational families, and CEOs of our households, and just taking care of everyone,” she adds.

Cardona says the pandemic taught America a new phrase, essential workers. The country quickly saw how important people of color were in our vital industries and roles, especially women. Every day, Latinas ventured to their jobs in hotels to transportation and health care. They never quit or gave up.

Sylvia Mata, LULAC National Women’s Commissioner

Mata says the focus now is on women’s empowerment and the significant impact on their families and communities. “I am very proud to be a part of LULAC because of its power for good and how respected the name is in many areas. This event will give us a greater presence here because I know of many successful professionals like attorneys who are now judges, and they tell me their first scholarship came from LULAC. This is the impact we are making,” adds Mata.

Mata has worked on educational programs related to health, immigration, finances, art, and small business. She co-produced an art, science, and technology (STEM) program for grades 10-12. Her goal was to reduce the school dropout rate in Queens, New York. Also, she owns and leads her small business. Today, she focuses on education from the perspective of inter-American business relations with a specialized focus on art and art investments.

You might be interested: The glass ceiling: Career development inequality for women of color

Mata sees a growing power for Latinas in America. “Women represent a significant part of the population, and we are moving the economy through our small businesses. We are advancing in federal jobs and leading important community groups, so, significantly, we are celebrating the LULAC National Women’s Conference here. I invite all Latinas who can join LULAC or collaborate with us. We are hopeful for the future.”

About LULAC

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services, and advocacy address the most prominent issues for Latinos, meeting the critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit https://lulac.org/.

Latina Buying food at the supermarket

Why Latino economic power is greater than political representation

Despite new reports on the increasing Latino economic power –their buying power, insertion in the labor force, and their role as the backbone of Social Security–, the part Hispanics play in the United States’ political arena is still minimal.

Latina Buying food at the supermarket Latino economic power

Latinas make 85% of purchasing decisions in the home

Latinos are the nation’s second largest and fastest growing population group and electorate; however, we are still behind in representation. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) reports that 24. 8 million Latinos who are eligible to vote are not registered.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics will account for 75% of the nation’s labor force growth in the next decade. A population that is growing rapidly because of an increasing birth rate and is fed by constant immigration–although lessened in the last two years–, Hispanics in the United States are the labor force of the future.

Latino economic power and labor force

A first reason of this assessment is that the aging baby-boomers’ generation or non-Hispanic population entering Social Security massively will need the younger Latino labor force to carry for millions of their pensions. In addition, the non-Hispanic birthrate is slowing down at an alarming rate. White women are giving birth at a later age and to fewer children.

“A second important factor is that Hispanics have a higher labor force participation rate than other groups. The nation’s labor force participation rate—that is, the share of the population ages 16 and older either employed or looking for work—was 64.7% in 2010. Among Hispanics, the rate was 67.5%. There are two main explanations for this gap: Hispanics are a younger population than other groups, and include a higher share of immigrants”, concludes Rakesh Kochhar.

These figures were extracted from the 2010-2020 BLS projections for the U.S. labor force. The report indicates that growth in America will slow overall, while the rest of the world’ labor force —especially in the Asian markets—is growing at a frantic rate. “Hispanics are expected to add 7.7 million workers to the labor force while the number of non-Hispanic whites in the labor force is projected to decrease by 1.6 million.”

The labor force movement should acknowledge this increased role of Latinos as an opportunity for their political participation in the next decades, and act accordingly.

“Latinos need the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively —which means they need the Employee Free Choice Act,” said Gabriela Lemus, executive director of Progressive Congress. She is the former executive director of the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO & CTW. In 2008, she was elected to serve as Vice-Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), later becoming chair where she helped to establish progressive policies for the Latino civil rights movement.

Head Shot  Latino economic power

Gabriela Lemus

Latino economic power expected to grow

Although the number of employed Hispanics has increased from its lowest in 2009, Latino economic power is expected to continue growing as the relatively young population is increasing educational opportunities and moving up the social ladder.

By 2020, Latinos are expected to comprise 19 percent of the U.S. labor force. Women comprised 41 percent of all Latinos in the labor force in 2011, compared to 46 percent among the white labor force.

On the other hand, the Selig Center for Economic Growth reports that Latino economic power has gained momentum —as disposable income, or money that is available for spending after taxes—over the past decade at a staggering rate compared to other minorities.

“The Hispanic market alone, at $1 trillion, is larger than the entire economies of all but 14 countries in the world–smaller than the GDP of Canada but larger than the GDP of Indonesia,” Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of the center, notes.

“The ten states with the largest Hispanic markets, in order, are California ($265 billion), Texas ($176 billion), Florida ($107 billion), New York ($81 billion), Illinois ($44 billion), New Jersey ($39 billion), Arizona ($34 billion), Colorado ($22 billion), New Mexico ($20 billion), and Georgia ($17 billion),” says the report, which brings up the issue of political representation.

What can be done  to encourage those who are not citizens yet to acquire their citizenship, and those who are, to participate in the electoral process? It must be our very first priority if we ever want to achieve economic and political power, and make our voices count.