Women's History: Latinas making progress

Women's History: Latinas making progress
photo via spacelight.nasa.gov

Today is International Women’s Day and March also is Women’s History Month.

It’s a time when I reflect on Latina women, feminism, our accomplishments and how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Yes, Latinas are breaking barriers.  Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina or Latino Supreme Court Justice. Ellen Ochoa is the first Latina astronaut. Actress Rita Moreno is the only Latina or Latino who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

But we still have much to overcome.

Hispanic women in the United States are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as non-Hispanic women, according to Pew Research Hispanic Center.

But there are some positive signs.

The teen pregnancy rate for Hispanic teens decreased from 104.6 per 1,000 in 1991 to  49.4 per 1,000 in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The birth rate for Hispanic women also declined from 2007 to 2010, more than any other group, also according to Pew Hispanic.

And more Hispanic women are graduating from college. In 1970, only 4.3 percent of Hispanic women were college graduates and by 2010 that rose to almost 15 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

These are all signs that more Latinas are moving forward to make choices about their education and career goals.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I will highlight on my blog this month Latinas who broke barriers.

Ellen Ochoa

In 1991, Ochoa became the first Latina astronaut. She is a veteran of four space flights and has logged more than 978 hours in space, according to NASA. She currently serves as the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Ochoa was born in 1958 in California and has received many awards including the Harvard Foundation Science Award, Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity.

Her father’s parents were from Mexico.

“I think that it’s important for children to have a role model to see what they can grow up to be. It’s important they know that if they work hard, they can be and accomplish whatever they want. I am proud to be an example of that,” Ochoa told Scholastic in a past interview.

She didn’t imagine as a young woman she would go into space.

“I can’t image not wanting to go into space. But I never considered being an astronaut as an option because when I was growing up there were no female astronauts. It wasn’t until the first six female astronauts were selected in 1978 that women could even think of it as a possible career path,” she said in the same interview.

Thankfully today women can follow any career in or out of this world.



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