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Latinas succeed, but feel pressured into traditional roles for women: NPR

Angelica Popoca pours melted wax into a container. She recently left her full-time job to start her candle-making business. She now has more time to spend with her three children and enjoys running her own business in Waxahachie, Texas.

Stella Chávez/KERA


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Angelica Popoca pours melted wax into a container. She recently left her full-time job to start her candle-making business. She now has more time to spend with her three children and enjoys running her own business in Waxahachie, Texas.

Stella Chávez/KERA

Despite being the fastest growing group of women over the past decade and having made progress in education and entrepreneurship, Latinas in the United States continue to experience the same cultural and gender expectations than previous generations, findings of a new Pew Research Center study reveal.

The study concludes that a majority of Latinas – including younger women – continue to feel the need to succeed at work and at home. This contrast comes despite other recent achievements, including the fact that Latino-owned businesses have grown faster than their non-Latino counterparts.

“Latinas face these conflicting pressures,” said Sahana Mukherjee, associate director of the Race and Ethnicity Research Team at the Pew Research Center and one of the report’s authors. “On one hand, more than 50 percent of Latinas say they feel pressure to provide for their loved ones, and then about two-thirds say they also feel pressure to succeed in their jobs.”

The study reveals the responses of Hispanic American women and Latino immigrants. It also analyzes responses by education level and party affiliation and highlights differences between Hispanic women and men.

“Our U.S.-born Latinas are more likely to say that Hispanic women in general in the U.S. are pressured to marry, to cook and clean at home, to be beautiful,” Mukherjee said. They also feel more pressure to succeed at work and take care of their families than Latino immigrants.

The report also reveals generational differences among Latinas. More women ages 18 to 29 and college graduates reported feeling pressure to succeed professionally compared to older Latinas.

As for certain gender expectations, the report explains that “some Latinas have ‘grown up with traditional cultural values ​​inherited from Latin America’ and this could contribute to the pressures they feel.”

The number of adult Latinas – now numbering 22.2 million – has grown faster than any other female racial or ethnic group. Between 2010 and 2022, the population increased by 5.6 million, according to the report.

This is a group that has felt a lot of pressure to take care of their family during Covid and live closer to family, Mukherjee said.

The study found that 68 percent of Latinas said Hispanic women “face a lot or fair amount of pressure to cook and clean at home, compared to 19 percent who say the same is true for Hispanic men.”

A larger share of young Latinas, 77 percent, among those ages 18 to 29, reported feeling pressured to cook and clean. This compares to 58% of Latinas aged 50 to 64 and 57% of those aged 65 and over.

And 62% said Hispanic women reported feeling pressured to dress well, wear makeup or do their hair and nails. In contrast, 37% said Hispanic men faced these pressures.

Despite all this, the report finds that an overwhelming majority of Latinas, 88 percent, are extremely or very satisfied, or somewhat satisfied with their lives.

Ruby Garcia, who coaches first-generation Latino leaders in North Carolina, said gender role expectations among some Latinos can shape how Hispanic women view themselves.

“It’s about sacrificing yourself, doing everything for your family and being dedicated to your family,” Garcia said. “There are people who have not left these traditional gender roles and who still think that the thing to do is to get married, have children, have another child, etc. But success does not doesn’t have to be your mother’s version of success.

Angelica Popoca, of Waxahachie, Texas, says she felt pressure after she married to take on traditional roles for Hispanic women.

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Angelica Popoca, of Waxahachie, Texas, says she felt pressure after she married to take on traditional roles for Hispanic women.

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A different definition of success and fulfillment

These days, many Latinas are redefining what success looks like, she said. This might mean not having a family or not getting married.

Angelica Popoca, 29, recently left her job at the IRS. In exchange, she benefited from more freedom and flexibility in her schedule. This gave her more time to devote to the candle-making business she started during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also allowed her to spend more time with her three daughters and her husband.

The Waxahachie, Texas, resident left her job in March after her grandmother died. His employer only allowed him to take three days of mourning. She was grieving and under a lot of stress and was also planning her wedding.

“Once I quit my 9-5 job, my husband said to me, ‘Okay, maybe now you can work full time with your small business and take care of the candles and the sell in stores,’” she said. .

Popoca was born in the United States and her parents were born in Mexico. Being the daughter of immigrants inspired her to work hard, she said. His father, also an entrepreneur, started his own trucking company 30 years ago.

She said her parents encouraged her to focus on her studies, but after she started dating her current husband, she felt pressure from her father to get married.

“It was kind of funny because the pressure was from my dad and not my mom, but then the pressure from my mom was more like, ‘Okay, you need to make sure you know how to cook. You need to know how to cook.’ clean everything, make dinner every night…you have to make tortillas.”

Garcia, North Carolina, has heard it all before. She said Latinas have made many advances in education and created new businesses. A gender wage gap remains but, she added, Latinas make more money now than before.

She applauds Latinas who have embraced all of their identities, realizing that they don’t have to choose one over the other.

“So they say, ‘Here are the things that I love about my culture and I’m going to continue to adopt them and pass them on to my own children,'” she said. “‘And here are the things that I don’t like and that I don’t agree with or that don’t suit me, and I’m going to give that up.’ “

Other findings from the report:

  • 71% of Latinas ages 18 to 29 said they experience pressure to look beautiful, compared to 53% of people ages 50 to 64 and 50% of people ages 65 and older.
  • More than half of Hispanic women said sexism was a problem in the workplace.
  • Among Spanish speakers, 46% said sexism was a problem in Spanish-language TV shows and movies.
  • More than half, or 53 percent, of Hispanic women ages 18 to 29 said gender affects their lives, compared to 30 percent of women ages 65 and older.
  • Nearly half of Latinas, or 49% of those who identify as Democrats or somewhat Democratic, said gender plays a role in their lives, compared to 35% of those who identify as Republicans.
  • You can read more about the Pew study here.

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