New Latino Caucus Initiative to Highlight Crisis of Inequities Facing California Latinas

Friday, October 9, 2020

SACRAMENTO – (Friday, Oct. 9, 2020) – Today, the California Latino Legislative Caucus is announcing a new two-year initiative to address the continued and growing inequality that California Latinas experience in economic outcomes, career and leadership opportunities, and education in the state. Latino Caucus Chairwoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Vice Chair María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arelta) will coordinate this effort.

“Despite constituting nearly 20% of our population, Latinas are too often unseen in California. There have been historic disparities in our pay, leadership opportunities and outcomes that must be intentionally identified and addressed in this state,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Chair of the Latino Caucus. “Through this two-year initiative, the Latino Caucus plans to clearly identify these disparities and push forward an aggressive agenda that prioritizes the success of Latinas in California. If we want to finally level the economic playing field in this state, California has to take on the deep-rooted, systemic racism and misogyny that holds Latinas down.”

The Unseen Latinas Initiative will highlight what has become a growing problem in California. As women and communities of color have slowly made gains in this State, Latinas have fallen even farther behind. From the hotel housekeeper in San Diego, to the student in the Central Valley, to the executive in Silicon Valley, Latinas have been passed over and dismissed as other demographic groups continue to make gains. The Unseen Latinas Initiative will bring together educational and economic experts and Latinas working in a range of California industries to understand the problem that currently exists and eventually work toward intentional and targeted solutions. The Initiative will kick-off with a press conference and tweet-storm on National Latina Equal Pay Day, Thursday, October 29.

“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed and protected women's constitutional right to vote, it is important to note that it took another 45 years for women of color to secure that same right. California’s legislative composition consists of 120 legislators, 38 of whom are women, and of those 16 are Latinas. Even though California is the most racially diverse state in the nation, nearly 78% of the women appointed to California public boards are white women. Only 3.3% of the women appointed to these boards are Latina,” Senator María Elena Durazo said. “We have a long way to go to reach parity with other women in California, which makes the ‘Unseen Latinas’ project that much more important.”

California has the country’s lowest gender wage gap, yet Latinas in the state suffer from the largest pay disparity in the United States—earning on average just 42 cents for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men. A new report released by the non-profit organization Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) shows that historic inequities facing California Latinas have worsened in the pandemic. In the first months of California’s economic shutdown, 30 percent of Latinas in the state lost their jobs.

“I am proud to help spearhead the efforts for the project Unseen Latinas that seeks to address the inequalities that impact Latinas,” Senator Gonzalez said. “Historically, Latinas have earned much lower wages than our white female and male counterparts and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic the numbers look even worse. Almost thirty percent have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and we have suffered casualties at equally alarmingly rates. We need to do better. Latinas need more. More means access to better paying jobs, education, career opportunities, and excellent healthcare. It is time for change. Only then will we see how we can thrive as a community when Latinas live to our full potential.”

“I look forward to highlighting the inequities experienced by too many women of color by lending my support for project Unseen Latinas,” Assemblywoman Rivas said. “Our invisibility starts at a young age where our system fails to ensure that we have a roof over our heads and are connected with resources to help us succeed in school. Education is essential to ensure we provide pathways to well-paying jobs. We can’t expect success as adults if we set them up for failure as kids.”

Under-representation of Latinas exists across a range of professions and income levels in the state:

  • Only about 1.8 percent of doctors are Latina.
  • Only 3 percent of the licensed attorneys and 2 percent of the judges are Latina.
  • A Latina has never been appointed to the California State Supreme Court. 
  • In elected office, Latinas account for just 7.3 percent of city council seats and 13.3 percent of seats in the State Legislature.
  • A Latina has never been elected to statewide office in California.
  • After a state law passed in 2018 to require more representation on publicly traded corporate boards, Latinas made up only 3.3 percent (or 17 of 511) of new seats filled.

Nearly 20% of all Californians are Latina, or 1 in 5 people. Within the last decade, Latino purchasing power rose to $453 billion (or 20 percent) of the total buying power in the state—a 70 percent increase since 2010. The economic success of the entire state depends on prioritizing the success of Latinas.

For questions or to schedule an interview with a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, contact Sami Gallegos: Samantha.Gallegos@asm.ca.gov