Achieving the Latina American Dream: How Entrepreneurship Can Empower Latin American Migrant Women and Their Communities
Latin American migrant women in the U.S. have great potential to be impactful drivers of economic growth for themselves, their families, their communities and their countries — both native and naturalized. They could represent a vast source of brilliant professionals, job creators and active consumers who could boost their communities at home and their extended personal networks abroad. But they are also a largely underestimated demographic group that consistently lacks adequate tools and opportunities while concurrently facing major obstacles such as sexism, discrimination and financial exclusion.
But though their potential is marred by daunting circumstances, there is a reason for optimism: entrepreneurship. By providing the resources and support needed for Latin American migrant women to start and scale their own businesses, it is possible to provide them with a viable opportunity to integrate into the labor market and to further support the people and economies that depend on them, both in the U.S. and in the emerging markets from which they emigrated.
Barriers to the Latina American Dream
Latinos are widely recognized as having a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, according to research carried out by New American Economy (2021), Hispanic immigrants are over 30% more likely to start and work for their own businesses than the general U.S. population. And as of 2019, there were over 2.5 million Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States.
But despite the faster revenue growth of Latino businesses, they still struggle with barriers to financing. For nearly 70% of these enterprises, personal savings is the most common source of capital. Furthermore, less than one-quarter of Latino-owned businesses receive funding of over $100,000 from national banks, compared to nearly 50% for white-owned businesses.
These hindrances are even greater for Latin American migrant women, who experience substantial opportunity gaps in the U.S., ranging from wage disparities (Hispanic women earn an average of 33% less per hour than white men) to cultural and linguistic differences.
The economic impact of supporting Latin American migrant women
Entrepreneurship can be a risky financial move for anyone, let alone Latin American migrant women. But for these women, the benefits of a successful business can be profound, as the impact of a consistent income that goes beyond basic survival extends across country borders.
For millions of people living in Latin American countries, the money sent from family working in the United States represents a major — if not the primary — source of income. And this dependence is only growing. According to the World Bank, remittance flows into Latin America and the Caribbean increased by 11.3% in 2022 to reach $145 billion, while countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras have seen larger individual increases (50%, 18% and 17.8% respectively).
The support and resources that will make a difference
With the pressure of providing for their families and communities at home and abroad, combined with the uphill battle of achieving financial security in their host country, Latin American migrant women need support. It is critical that this support provides them with tools that respond to their most pressing needs — including their need to gain new business skills.
At Pro Mujer, we are committed to empowering Latin American women. To that end, we’ve worked with a holistic approach for over 33 years, providing funding, health and training services to underserved women in Latin America. Based on the insights and lessons learned over this time, we developed Emprende Pro Mujer, an online entrepreneurship skilling platform now available free of charge to Spanish-speaking women residing in the United States.
“Emprende” offers women access to dynamic and engaging educational content tailored to each stage of their entrepreneurial journey. It also supports their personal and professional development, including building their leadership, management, finance, digital and sales skills and boosting their self-esteem. Women can access the platform’s content and functionalities from anywhere in the U.S. whenever they wish, and through any device with an internet connection. By providing migrant women with these entrepreneurship skilling opportunities, Emprende aims to increase their economic independence and facilitate their personal and professional growth. The platform has also recently incorporated a learning module called “Mujer Migrante,” which teaches psychosocial support skills to improve the livelihoods of migrant women, integrate them into new societies, and build a better future for their families.
Women are catalysts of development around the world. Entrepreneurship can not only make Latin American migrant women more productive members of American society, it can create a lasting impact on their families and communities in their countries of origin. Now more than ever, it is critical to focus on breaking down the structural barriers that limit these women’s ability to reach their full potential.
Photo courtesy of Liza Summer.