Latinas are celebrated for many things—our temperance, resilience, and beauty, for example. But when we see a fellow Latina out there making it, few know the sacrifice it implies.

Not only do we have to survive rampant sexism and double layers of discrimination. More often than not, we also do it alone while constantly fighting our imposter syndrome. Still, we do it with humor, always dressed up. And with the joy of one who knows she is doing things right.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic alone, Latinas started businesses at more than eleven times the rate of their non-Hispanic counterparts. Nielsen reports that Latina-owned companies have experienced a growth rate of at least 87% over the past five years.

However, although Latinas play a central role in the U.S. economy and workforce (they are the second largest group of U.S. workers), on average, Latina wages are 46% lower than those of white men and 31% lower than those of white women.

Despite these obstacles, Latinas continue to climb the ladder to leadership positions. However, a new report found that Latinas face the steepest path to advancement and are the most underrepresented of all employee groups in the C-suite.

Latinas are making inroads in the corporate world against the tide

Lean In’s new report, “The State of Latinas in Corporate America,” paints a new picture of the working world for Latinas. Drawing heavily from Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study, the latest report highlights data between 2019 and 2023. It is also based on an analysis of in-depth interviews conducted between 2021 and 2024 with more than two dozen Latinas.

The report’s conclusion is one: Latinas start and end their careers significantly underrepresented.

According to the authors, there are “about half as many Latinas at the entry-level as in the general population.” This means Latinas represent more than 9% of the population but just under 5% of entry-level workers.

“This shortage of Latinas at the entry-level makes them the most underrepresented of any group of women at the beginning of their careers,” the report reads. However, and despite this reality, the report finds that Latinas remain “highly ambitious and increasingly committed to advancement.”

Only 1% of C-suite executives are Latina

Latina resilience is not insignificant. Over the years, we have had to learn that the road is not an easy one but no less meritorious.

The same is true in the C-suite. Latinas face “the steepest climb up the corporate ladder,” the new report explained. They also face the steepest decline in representation from entry-level to the C-suite. “As a result, they end up being the least represented at the top: only 1% of C-suite executives are Latinas.”

The report warns that if this trend continues, we “will not be able to catch up with other groups of women—let alone men—in senior positions.” The authors also warn that Latinas could remain “the most underrepresented group at the highest levels of corporate America.”

“Representation matters,” said Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org. “Latinas experience the biggest drop in representation from entry-level to the C-suite, rendering them nearly invisible at the highest levels of leadership. Not only are Latinas the least represented in the C-suite, but they also confront two significant hurdles holding them back from critical promotions. As a result, Latinas are left trailing behind men and all other groups of women. Companies can—and must—do better.”

When the problem is the first rung

So, if we’re talented, hardworking, and capable, what’s holding us back from climbing the corporate ladder?

The report explains that Latinas are “particularly overlooked” on two points. “They experience the most significant ‘broken rung’ on the critical initial rung into management. For every 100 men promoted from entry-level to management, only 74 Latinas are promoted. As a result, far fewer Latinas can move up at each subsequent level, and their representation declines from there.”

The second barrier Latinas face is the particularly low promotion rates from director to VP. For every 100 men promoted to VP, 90 Latinas are promoted. “This holds Latinas back at a key time when the C-suite is finally on the horizon,” the report continues.

Ironically, this has nothing to do with these women’s performance. In fact, the report found that entry-level Latinas ask for promotions just as often as men and are not more likely to leave their companies.

“These findings resonate with me,” said Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fannie Mae. For Almodovar, who is the only Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 business, it’s important for leaders to understand “the unique challenges Latinas face in the corporate world and the way cultural norms can sometimes mask strengths.”

“We need the talents of all our people,” she added. “That’s why I’m committed to making sure that all employees at Fannie Mae, including Latinas, are seen and supported – and that their achievements are recognized.”

When a Latina makes it into the C-suite, the pay gap is still present

Despite all the obstacles, if she decides to keep swimming upstream to break barriers, a Latina in the C-suite is going to encounter a terrible reality. While Latinas, in general, earn as little as 52 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white male, in a C-suite, she will earn 36% less—the lowest percentage of any employee group.

This perpetuates the reality that Latinas miss out on nearly $1.2 million in lifetime earnings. Today, we have a median net worth that is less than 1% of the median for white men.

Work flexibility and other pitfalls

The report also found that Latinas have less flexibility to work remotely and often experience a lack of trust from managers. In addition, they are usually the “only” Latinas in the workplace and experience some of the worst discrimination.

More than one in three Latinas report that they are often the only Latina in the room and have profoundly more challenging experiences in the workplace. These include microaggressions such as overhearing insults about their culture or colleagues being surprised by their knowledge or language skills.

No matter the obstacles, there’s no ambition like a Latina’s

Up to this point, the whole picture for Latinas in the corporate world seems daunting. However, the new report found, “Latinas remain ambitious despite their underrepresentation in the corporate world.”

“In fact, Latinas remain deeply motivated to rise through the corporate ranks,” the authors write. “They are more interested in moving up to the next level and becoming senior leaders than white women and women in general.”

Latina job seekers also prioritize career advancement. When considering changing companies or leaving their current one, one-third of Latinas say the possibility of advancement is what matters most to them, compared with one-quarter of white women.