Latinas comprise nearly twenty percent of the California population, representing the largest share of California women at thirty-nine percent. In their role as mothers, Latinas are also raising more than half of the state’s children. In many ways, how Latinas fare helps determine the future of the state. But it is deeper than this. As this report—Leading with HOPE: Supporting Latina Leaders for a Better California exemplifies, California Latinas tend to lead in ways that center equity, build bridges, and will be key to sustaining a robust multiracial democracy.

It is important to acknowledge that this stepping up to leadership is not something that has occurred by chance. Programs like the HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI), led by Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), have sought to impart the skills, create the networks, and build the infrastructure needed to lead and build power among Latinas in California. HOPE has recognized what the research tells us about the importance of mentoring, the specificity of Latina leadership styles, the barriers that stand in the way, and the dual role of networks in creating opportunities to both be lifted up and to lift up others.

This report offers a deep dive into the HLI program, its alumnae, and how HOPE contributes to a broader ecosystem that seeks to bring marginalized communities into spaces from which they have been historically excluded. It demonstrates the impact of Latinas in California as a demographic force and as leaders who are building a more equitable state, and arguing for more philanthropic investment in their leadership. To this end, we draw on existing research, secondary analysis of key Latina demographic and economic data, as well as our analysis of survey results for nearly 300 HLI alumnae, interview data from 30 interviews, and three geographically distinct discussion groups. Among HLI alumnae surveyed: 20 percent are immigrants, 54 percent are second-generation U.S.-born citizens; 77 percent are first-generation college students; 43 percent work in the public sector, 33 percent work in the private sector, and 24 percent work in the non-profit sector; and 80 percent credit HOPE with expanding their Latina network.

We live in a world on fire: we face the challenges of climate change, income inequality, unaffordable housing, immigrant inclusion, educational disparities, over-policing and over-incarceration, and so much more. With so much at stake and so much on the plate, it is easy to become paralyzed and simply fall prey to despair about our future. But among the bright spots that can perhaps give us hope is this growing network of Latina leaders who are making a difference for their communities and for the state.

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

    a view of the Los Angeles skyline