In a recent video for LeanIn. org, Eva Longoria joined celebrities including Kerry Washington, Selena Gomez, Emma Watson and Serena Williams in encouraging women to support each other. This appearance is the latest in philanthropic efforts by the actress, director and producer to help empower women and in particular her fellow Latinas.
Although she is widely known for her “Desperate Housewives” character, the often self-centered Gabrielle Solis, in real life Longoria has dedicated both her studies at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and her foundation to help others excel.
“Inequitable education practices perpetuate differences in achievement that impedes the quality of learning opportunities available to Latinas which, in turn, will greatly affect their social and economic circumstances,” Longoria wrote in her 2013 CSUN thesis titled “Success STEMS from Diversity: The Value of Latinas in STEM.” The quantitative study’s focus was on the lives of Latinas both pursuing possible careers in STEM-related work and employed in the STEM fields.
“The data collected from the study should allow us to create effective interventions that eliminate the common factors impeding STEM degree completion for Latinas and to identify and replicate the common factors that lead to success for Latinas in STEM fields,” Longoria wrote. Her thesis earned her a Masters of Arts in Chicano and Chicana Studies degree.
Beyond academics, Longoria also established the Eva Longoria Foundation in 2012 with the purpose to encourage and support Latinas both in their education and their careers.
According to the foundation’s website 27 percent of Latinas live below the poverty line, one in three Latinas drop out of high school and only 15 percent of adult Latinas hold college degrees. Despite this data, 80 percent of Latina teens in the U.S. want to go to college and Latina-owned businesses have recently increased at eight times the rate of businesses owned by men.
“Our vision is to empower Latinas to reach their potential through education and entrepreneurship,” the foundation’s website states. “The Eva Longoria Foundation’s programs help Latinas excel in school and attend college. Additionally, we provide Latina entrepreneurs with career training, mentorship, capital and opportunity. By investing in Latinas, we hope to build a stronger future for our country.”
The foundation’s programs include a nine-week course in partnership with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to instruct parents in low-income, predominantly Latino areas on assisting their children with college applications, financial aid forms, class requirements and other education-related tasks. The program, which has graduated more than 2,200 participants expanded to Mexico City in 2015 and has continued to expand to other schools.
Beyond the foundation’s partnership with PIQE, it has also partnered with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation on several programs both for students and entrepreneurship. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Eva Longoria’s Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio have combined their efforts to create afterschool programs specifically designed to improve students’ knowledge of STEM-related fields, including robotics and coding. The two foundations have also partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Corpus Christi for a mentorship program designed to teach Latinas healthy living and leadership.
The Eva Longoria Foundation has also partnered with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to provide training and microloans to Latina entrepreneurs.
Additional programs done through the Eva Longoria Foundation include giving backpacks of food on a weekly basis in San Antonio and Corpus Christi in partnership with Feeding America. The foundation has also provides loans to 152 Latina business owners since the spring of 2013 in partnership with Accion Texas and Accion Diego and since the fall of 2015 has been expanding its mentorship efforts specifically in Los Angeles with the help of Bank of America and Step Up.
“The growing Latina population is an untapped resource in this country,” said Longoria who has continued to spread awareness of Latina issues in such forums at the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, the National Council de la Raza (NCLR) National Conference and the Clinton Global Initiative America Conference. “If we give Latinas the tools to unlock their potential, we will see amazing results.”