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Study says Latinas achieving beyond the home still feel pressure of traditional roles


The number of Latinas in the U.S. is growing faster than other female groups in the country. They are starting new businesses at a faster pace than others, and they're getting more college degrees. Yet a new report reveals Hispanic women are still contending with the same forces as previous generations to maintain traditional roles at home while also succeeding at work. From member station KERA, reporter Stella Chavez has this story.

ANGELICA POPOCA: Come into my candle studio. It's a little small broom (ph) that I have here.

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: Angelica Popoca gives a tour of her home office. It's full of candles, a large steel container to melt wax and all the tools she needs to make her own candles.

POPOCA: Over here, I have all my fragrances on the wall, and then...

CHAVEZ: A few months ago, Popoca had a full-time job with the IRS. She got to work from home, but something felt off.

POPOCA: It kind of gave me that guilt feeling of, oh, my gosh, there's so much to do at the house, but I have to work, and I don't have this time. And then, oh, the kids are going to come home soon. I got to make them something to eat.

CHAVEZ: Popoca wanted less guilt and more flexibility, so she quit. Now she runs her own candlemaking business called Four the Girls, a name that recognizes the four women in the house, Popoca and her three daughters. What Popoca describes is at the heart of the Pew Research Center's recent study on the experiences of Latinas in the U.S.

SAHANA MUKHERJEE: Latinas are facing these dueling pressures.

CHAVEZ: That's Sahana Mukherjee, one of the authors of the study.

MUKHERJEE: On one hand, you have over 50% of Latinas say that they feel pressure to provide for their loved ones, and then you have about two-thirds saying that they also feel pressure to succeed in their jobs.

CHAVEZ: Mukherjee says many Latinas indicated they also feel pressure to cook and clean and look beautiful. The report, which doesn't look at the experiences of other racial or ethnic groups, also says Latinas feel more pressure to marry and have kids than their male counterparts. Ruby Garcia coaches first-generation Latina leaders in North Carolina. All of this rings true for her.

RUBY GARCIA: I think there's this struggle because there's kind of these traditional cultural beliefs about what it means to be a good wife or a good mother, and those are so embedded in our culture at a deep level.

CHAVEZ: But Garcia says, Latinas want careers, and they want to excel. That tension creates a tug of war between those two things. Latinas in the U.S. are now 22 million. They've grown more than any other female racial or ethnic group. Mukherjee from the Pew says, Hispanic women face a variety of pressures, whether it's in the workplace or at home.

MUKHERJEE: Our results highlight that it's not just about caregiving responsibilities, whether it's for elderly or for, you know, young ones, but it's even the pressure to live closer to their family and, of course, the pressure to actually be successful at work. So that duality is something that we think is important here to highlight.

CHAVEZ: Back in her suburban Dallas home, Popoca says she felt relief when she made her decision to do what suited herself and her family.

POPOCA: Once I stepped away from my 9-to-5 job, you know, my husband was like, OK, maybe now you can actually work full-time with your small business.

CHAVEZ: And she can show her daughters what it's like to be multifaceted, a caring mom and wife and no less a successful entrepreneur. For NPR News, I'm Stella Chavez in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Stella Chavez
[Copyright 2024 KERA]