As we enter into Women’s History Month and the world celebrates the role women play in today’s society, it is important to underscore the role of the segment driving more than 50 percent of the total population growth: Latinas.
At approximately 24 million strong, Latinas in the U.S. are a force to be reckon with not only for their demographic size and growth but also the critical economic power they represent.
As I work with many corporate boardrooms to successfully understand and unlock the power this marketplace represents, I often emphasize that beyond stereotyping marketing efforts to appeal to Latinas’ great affinity to fashion, beauty and food, there is open runway to engage them as smart and educated professionals and businesswomen.
To help dispel the myths, here are business facts that you should keep in mind, broadening the important role we play as part of the American fabric.
Educated: According to data reported by the Condition of Education 2016, women overall surpass men in the attainment of college degrees. In 2015, 39 percent of women aged 25 to 29 had completed a bachelor’s degree, while the same was true for 32 percent of men. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas in particular also surpass their male counterparts, with 20 percent earning a bachelor’s degree or higher by age 29, versus Hispanic men at 14.1 percent.
Entrepreneurial: Overall, Latino-owned businesses have grown at a rate 15 times higher than other firms, according to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. American Express OPEN found that from 1997 to 2015, the number of firms owned by Latinas grew by 224 percent. The last Census reports that while the number of white women-owned businesses has increased 10.1 percent since 2007, the number of companies by Latinas has increased an impressive 87.5 percent, while Asians at 44.3 and African-Americans by 67.5 percent; all significantly outpacing businesses owned by men with a growth of less than 10 percent.
Home Buyers: While it is broadly known that women overall are the chief purchasing officers of the household, driving more than 80 percent of all purchasing decisions, Latinas in particular play a key role in home ownership. According to a study by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, 91 percent of Latinas think buying a home is the best financial investment they can make and 61 percent report playing a larger role than their partners in making a home buying decision.
While these facts are impressive and support a compelling business case, there are concerning factors as well that any business leader should take into consideration when reaching out to this vibrant community.
While there is an undeniable entrepreneurial and professional spirit motivating women, we still face inequalities that ultimately impact the economy at large. If women, including Latinas, are the growth drivers in size and economic potential as business owners and job creators but they are not reaching their full potential, this means the American economy is not reaching its full potential, either.
Until we design effective interventions to address issues around equal pay, at 54 cents to the white man’s dollar for Latinas, and the disparities around revenue generation, given Latino-owned businesses earn 27 cents to the dollar, we will have a growing and concerning impediment as a nation when it comes to job creation, growth and prosperity.
We must look into these factors, not as altruistic matters that simply live within the context of a day or a month, but a critical component to the prosperity of our country.
Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, multicultural marketing strategist, Fox News independent contributor and CEO and co-founder of CIEN+. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women's Leadership Board.