Of the estimated 7,000 state senators and representatives and about 2% of members of Congress who hold office to represent all in our nation, only 1% of our represented officials are Latinas. This one percent is shocking considering there is an estimated 25 million Latinas who live in the United States of America.
According to a report by Latinas Represent, only 2% of Hispanic women are members of congress. What this means is that in congress now 9 out of the 435 House seats are held by Latinas. Latinas Represent is a joint initiative of Political Parity, a group seeking to increase the presence of women in elected offices, and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda aimed at tackling the lack of elected Latina leaders and change the political landscape to reflect all Americans.
Meanwhile, only 1.1% is state senators and representatives. The percentage means that out of 7,383 positions only 78 of these positions are held by Latinas. In order to increase the lacking presence of Latinas in government positions a coalition of Hispanic groups are joining together in order to change this shocking percentage.
“It’s very important for us to collectively strategize. A lot of us are working in isolation,” said Candy C. de la Baca, a government administrator in Washington, D.C. “And it has to go beyond just voting. It has to go to putting Latinos and Latinas in leadership positions so that people naturally want to support the system and you don’t have to drag them in—they’ll see the benefit when they see themselves represented.“
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, or NHLA, is a non-partisan coalition of national Latino groups who came together on Monday at the U.S. Capitol to provide networking and training to Hispanic women at various levels of elected offices in hopes of boosting their political careers and coming up with ways to inspire others to take political positions for themselves.
The gathering could have not come at a jumpstarting time since it was held during the last week of Women’s History Month.
“For a nation that prides itself on inclusion, that’s frankly unacceptable. Our very democracy is in question when our legislative bodies don’t look like the diverse constituencies of our country,” said Héctor Sánchez, the executive director of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, “We’re in a pivotal moment in history when critical issues affecting all Americans are being debated. Our nation needs 100 percent of our talent to find solutions.”
At the event, participants took part in various activities on how they can achieve the goal of getting more Latinas involved in politics. To figure out how to do so attendees were required to break up into small groups and brainstorm on how to help Latina political officials get noticed and who to contact with established figures already in the political world.
Director of NHLA’s Latino Appointment Program, Melody González describes how the organization is helpful in providing a network that provides mentorship to participants. Mentorships which are an important tool in building a pipeline to furthering ones career goals.
“We’ve been building up the list of current and former Latino appointees and looking at levels all across the country, and we’re engaging the appointees to serve as mentors,” said González, “This includes how to navigate through the process, including interview tips and résumé tips, and how to research where you want to work and see where you fit in.”
By generating a network between established officials of a certain political standing with other Latinas in other political roles or Latinas looking to become a part of the political world it promotes the idea of having more Latinas becoming politically involved. The program also allows for a deeper understanding of the political system works and a supportive background for those involved.
To aide in such growth the NHLA has created an online talent bank at latinoappointments.org where applicants can sign-up. Once signed-up to NHLA’s site, applicants would be accepted upon a rolling basis which the NHLA will then help new members move through the process of becoming more politically active.
“I think these types of gatherings are important—it gives us an opportunity to tap into these groups—and participate in our nation’s political life and in public service,” said Leni González, president of Council 4609 of the League of United Latin American Citizens and community activist in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.
“There are so are many additional requirements of networking, funding and strategic development of a campaign, for example, and these are skills that can be transferred to other areas in life. We really need to band together to build those additional skills,” said Zuraya Tapia, director of the Mexican American Leadership Initiative at the U.S. Mexico Foundation.
Believing that many Latinas who are skilled and can handle political positions, Tapia feels that what they are lacking is assistance in getting to higher levels of offices. Tapia feels that both political parties should do more to reach out to members of the Latino community.
However, until both political parties jump on board Latinas in office and Latinas heading to office should become more proactive meanwhile the NHLA and such supporters have to take it “in our hands to get out there more.”