THE BLOG

Latinas in Charge: Leveraging the 'Latina Power Shift' Beyond the Coveted Consumer

09/16/2013 03:29 pm ET | Updated Nov 16, 2013

Nielsen's report, 'The Latina Power Shift,' unveiled noteworthy data profiling Latinas as an emerging influential group of women in this country. The report highlights their significant strides in educational pursuits, career development, economic power, technology adoption, and cultural retention.

This is certainly exciting news for companies and brands coveting the contemporary Latina consumer, the key driver of the Hispanic market's $1.2 trillion annual buying power. But the data undeniably begs a very important (but often neglected) question Latinas must ask themselves, individually and collectively.

The BIG Question

The implications of the U.S. Latina demographics reaches far and beyond the marketing interests of companies targeting the rising Latina. In essence, the 'Power Shift Report' is a data-driven call to action to Latinas from all corners of this country, to actively engage in a collective think tank around the following question:

How can WE, as influential Latinas, leverage this emerging power to create the social changes we need for ourselves, our family, the Latino community and this country?

That's a 1.2 trillion dollar question.

The Latina Influence

By the year 2060, Latinas will represent thirty percent (30 percent) of the U.S. female population, and will become dominant consumers across many industries. But if 2060 seems too far away, the following current demographics (from the Nielsen report) make a strong case for today's Latina influence:

Education, Career and Finances

* Latinas are outnumbering their male counterparts in educational achievements, career pursuits and income levels, shifting Latinas to the middle class and above;

* For the first time, Latinas have surpassed non-Hispanic females in college enrollment (73 percent and 72 percent respectively);

* Latinas in households making $75,000 or more increased by 5 percentage points over the past ten years;

* Latinas are more likely than other females to have bought a first home in the past year, and they are just as likely to have bought a new car, made a major home improvement or refinanced a home.

Motherhood and Household

* Twenty-three percent of all U.S. births in 2011 were to a Latina mom, and 63 percent of Hispanic families have children under age 18 compared to 40 percent for non-Hispanic white females. This high incidence of Latina mothers with young children, paired with gains in educational and economic attainments, positions Latinas in a key role as consumers for an array of household products;

* Eighty-six percent of Latinas report that they are the primary decision makers in their households spending.

Mobile and Internet Technology

* Latinas are adopting all types of technology at a higher pace than U.S. females. Online Latinas are more likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to own smartphones at 77 percent (vs. 55 percent);

* The digital Latina depends on mobile devices to connect to family and friends; consume media and entertainment; and to help make smart decisions on products and purchases.

Bicultural Agents:

* The modern Latina is actively engaged in the retention and strengthening of her bicultural identity. Maintaining strong connections to her family and her culture is an integral part of her life. Eighty-seven percent of bicultural Latinas report that they want to stay that way.

The Shift: From the Coveted Latina to Social Advocate

As Latinas continue to become a strong influence in the U.S. with their growing impact on the families, media, technology and commerce, it is imperative we capitalize on that influence and bring attention to the issues that matter most to us as Latinas, women, mothers and aspiring leaders in this country.

During an online discussion, members of the Latina Leadership Network, a private group on Facebook with over 3,300 professional and progressive Latinas, voiced their opinions on how they want to leverage their influence and emerging power:

"We should use this opportunity to encourage brands to improve their products when necessary, and make them safer for our children and families. It is an opportunity to reach out to companies and have them invest in our communities."

- Monica Olivera

"Let's use our influence to get our children the best education and resources that those sponsors are willing to put out in exchange for our loyalty and purchasing power."

- Vicky Cepeda

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Latinas to be seen as 'change agents' and that we as 'futurists' can assist in recalibrating the values and mission of large corporations to make them more 'human.' There has been an exit of 'Consumer Economy' and now enter the 'Relationship Economy,' as corporations rethink their approach with philanthropic angel. We, Latinas, need to be at that forefront -- we can't be seen as just 'consumer' anymore! We can help industries and governments map these changes."

- Michelle Olvera

Galvanizing Around Social Issues that Matter to the Progressive Latina

As we reflect on how we can take charge as influential advocates, there are salient social issues that awaits an organized undertaking. For example, while the college enrollment rate of Latinos has significantly increased over the past 12 years, Latino students are still less likely than white classmates to enroll full-time or at four-year colleges, or attend a selective college. Furthermore, college completion rates are low. Advocating for educational reform, access to quality education, and availability of early childhood education that address the needs of our Latino community at large is necessary.

As we continue to enter corporate America, academia and careers in STEM, we need to have representation in key leadership positions across these sectors. We want a chair on the boardroom table of the same big companies that enthusiastically target our dollars. We want to be an integral part of the technology innovation that's taking place around the country, and help design the technology we are so quick to adapt.

We want well paying jobs, good healthcare and work benefits, and policies in the workplace that respect our commitment to our family, language and culture. And, of course, immigration reform, reproductive rights, health care and economic issues -- all these social issues deeply matter to us as Latinas, women and mothers.

We are in an unprecedented position in this country. We have the power to make the ask.

Where should we begin?