Today is Latina Equal Pay Day and all we are asking for is equity. As the backbones of our communities and the major decision-makers in our households, Latinas have been tirelessly working towards making better lives for ourselves and our families. We’ve enrolled in and graduated from college at higher rates than any other minority group and we’re incredibly entrepreneurial. But none of this matters if no matter how hard we work, we find ourselves having to work the same jobs for twice as long to even get to parity with our white male counterparts.
We consistently wind up with the short end of the stick economically. From suffering from the largest wage gap of all women of color to having endured the sharpest decline in employment this year due to the pandemic (according to NPR, Latinas left the workforce at nearly three times the rate of white women and more than four times the rate of African Americans). We’ve got to talk about what our success looks like and real solutions that can help us fight against these systemic injustices.
The first step is countering some of the myths of meritocracy that come up time and again when Latina Equal Pay Day is discussed. Latinas are not suffering more from this inequity because we take lower-paying jobs. Though we are, in fact, over-represented in low-paying sectors or primarily female-driven employment, historically it has been proven that as our wages increase, so does the pay gap. For Latinas earning in the top 5%, the wage gap increases to 45 cents on the dollars, while those in the lowest 10% of salary make 85 cents on the dollar. That means as we claw and fight our way into higher-wage jobs, we’re actually seeing even LESS money than our white counterparts!
The facts remain that 33% of Latinos said they have been personally discriminated against when applying for jobs because of their ethnicity; 32 percent said that they have faced discrimination regarding being paid or promoted equally. In other words, the problem is systemic, not by choice.
And we have been putting in the work! Millennial Latinas with an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree grew 70 percent over the past two decades — outpacing both Latino males (56 percent) and non-Latina females (35 percent.) We are spending a lot of money on higher education, and then when we graduate not seeing the kind of dividends other groups are privy to. On top of it all, studies have shown that Latinas actually DO ask and negotiate as frequently as white men, but just do not get the same results.
Instead of placing the blame on us on Latina Equal Pay Day, why don’t we go to the source? Corporations need to start auditing their own pay practices, taking gender and ethnicity into account, and making sure that implicit and/or outright bias is not affecting their compensation practices. On top of that, they need to make sure that their employees are all beneficiaries of bias training, so that they can begin to identify the sometimes subconscious prejudice that comes into play when making decisions around hiring, firing and promoting employees.
We also need legislation in place so that employers who are not taking drastic measures towards equity are no longer able to hide in the shadows.
“Latinas know they deserve better – and that is why they are mobilizing, voting, and making sure their friends and family turn out at the polls. Latinas are demanding an equal shot at opportunity and prosperity, and a fairer, more inclusive future for their families,” Vice President Joe Biden on Latina Equal Pay Day
For that, we need to be sure to elect public officials who have our interests at heart. The first step, know your rights. Visit eeoc.gov to learn more about the laws regarding equal employment and pay. The next step, talk openly about the pay gap and destigmatize talking about salary with other women. The more open and honest we are with each other about compensation, the more leverage we give each other when we step into those negotiations. And last, VOTE! We need more Latinas in office and people who value us and our labor who will advocate for us.
So this Latina Equal Pay Day, say it loud and proud: “Pay me what you owe me!”