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Leading with HOPE:
Supporting Latina Leaders for a Better California


USC Equity Research Institute (ERI), in partnership with Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) present Leading with HOPE: Supporting Latina Leaders for a Better California, an in-depth study highlighting the impact of Latinas in California as a demographic force and as leaders who are building a more equitable state, despite lack of philanthropic investment.

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 exemplifies, California Latinas tend to lead in ways that center equity, build bridges, and will be key to sustaining a robust multiracial democracy.

Despite immense barriers ranging from educational access challenges, sexism and discrimination in the workplace, and persistent wage disparities that limit the financial capital needed to start businesses and run political campaigns, the report also finds Latinas have made remarkable progress at assuming new positions of leadership, particularly in the public and non-profit sectors, and that leadership development programs such as the HOPE Leadership Institute (HLI) are key to impart the skills, create the networks, and build the infrastructure needed to lead and build power among Latinas in California.

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.


USC ERI draws on existing research, secondary analysis of key Latina demographic and economic data, as well as an 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.

By investing in Latinas, we stand to gain more adaptive and responsive leaders capable of supporting stronger and more equitable communities. Where Latinas are leading, Californians are being well served. Where Latina voices are heard, equitable strategies are put in place to advance all citizens. This report shows us what we stand to gain, and what we stand to lose at this crucial moment in history. We can no longer afford not to center gender, race, and ethnicity in every single conversation about the economy and civic society.

Advanced Prasie for Leading with HOPE

The importance of this report cannot be overstated, above all because it provides evidence for something I have long known; HOPE and the Latinas they train are not only changing the face of California leadership but are also making our state a more equitable and just place for all. Their commendable achievements continue to exemplify what it means to pursue civic leadership.


Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, 51st California State Assembly District

The combination of demographic data and primary accounts from some of the state’s most influential Latinas pinpoints their path not only to their professional success, but to how they have been able to create positive change for California communities. The common trajectory for these leaders has been their connection to Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), and the Latinas who make up their network. For these Latina leaders, HOPE was a gamechanger.

Antonia Hernández, President & Chief Executive Officer, California Community Foundation

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