When I first moved to the U.S., about the same time that I learned that I was a Latina (after 25 years living in Europe only as a woman), I learned about the Latina pay gap. I was shocked to understand the impact my decision to move to the U.S. would have on my daughter. If nothing changes, she will end up earning less than half of what men do. It won’t be fair for her as it is not fair for the 28 million Latinas out there. So, let’s work together to change this reality, let’s make Latina Equal Pay Day big so that we can move from awareness to positive action as fast as possible.
Latinas have to work twice as hard and nearly twice as long to take home the same paycheck as white, non-Hispanic men do. On average, the group that by 2060 will represent 1 in 3 women, makes 53 cents (rounded) of every dollar earned by white men. Equal work, equal skills but, unfortunately, unequal pay with a 46-point pay gap. (The highest gap among any other group.)
This situation hurts Latinas, their families, companies, and our economy as a whole. According to an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, paying women equally would have added $512.6 billion to the national income. In one year.
And yet, nearly 1 in 3 Americans don’t even know this gap exists.
Latinas are not only underpaid but also underrepresented. For every 100 men who are promoted to a managerial position, only 68 Latinas are promoted. This “broken rung” results in more Latinas getting stuck at entry level positions. This trend continues at every step of the corporate ladder, leaving Latinas heavily underrepresented at the top (Latinas are 3% of senior level positions while white men represent 66% of executive jobs).
COVID-19 has put even more pressure on disadvantaged groups and Latinas are not the exception. Last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Latinas was almost 50% higher than that of white women and close to 70% higher than that of white men. Moreover, Latina working mothers are 1.6 times more likely than white mothers to be responsible for all child care and housework, pushing 1 in 3 mothers to the brink of scaling back or leaving the workforce altogether due to burnout. Even Latina nurses who are on the front lines fighting for all of us earn 70 cents for every dollar earned by white male nurses.
The time to act is now! Corporations should follow the example of Facebook, Intel, and Microsoft who closed their pay gaps by holding regular audits. Transparency is key. As a matter of fact, the pay gap is smaller for workers in sectors where pay transparency is mandated. For example, federal government workers experience a 13% pay gap between men and women, which is considerably lower than the current 46% faced by Latinas.
For corporations, engaging in closing the Latina pay gap is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. According to a study conducted by Katherine Phillips, a professor at Columbia University, “Teams that include diverse members outperform homogenous teams.”
So, let’s not waste another minute, understand where your company is at, audit compensation data reviewing both gender and race, ensure hiring and promotions are fair, and train your managers on how to manage bias.
To my fellow Latinas, I know that we are not taught to negotiate, we are taught to be thankful for the work we have. But for us to make a difference, we need to take the first step and ask for what we need. No more, “calladita te ves más bonita” (“you’re prettier when you’re quiet”)! We need to speak up, step up, believe in ourselves and in our own value, and prepare ourselves with strategies and skills to be successful in this effort. We need to learn about self-advocacy and promotion, how to present our results better, networking, taking risks, and asking for help.
I would like to propose a challenge, a “Mentor-a-Woman” challenge. I dare you, successful women out there, to start mentoring other women like you, help them the same way someone helped you when you were starting out. Let’s pave the way for more women to stop dreaming about something they have been deserving for a long time: Equal pay.