Latina Equal Pay Day lands on Dec. 8 this year marking how long it takes for Latinas to earn the same amount of money that white, non-Latino men earned in the year before. Latinas are almost a full year behind meaning for what a white man brings home in 2021, it will take a Latina, on average, through 2021 AND 2022 to earn. Not to mention the fact that despite making strides in education, the gap is largest for Latinas with a bachelor’s degree, who earn 31 percent less than white men on average, according to LeanIn. It’s almost 2023, but the pay structures in most companies, and in the U.S. at large (hello, no federal paid parental leave!) mean that women, and especially women of color, are paid like it’s still the 60s. If you’re as over this day as I am, here are the 5 things we need companies and our elected officials to do to help eradicate this day forever.
Pass paid parental leave and paid sick leave for all workers.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinxs are most likely to have a job in fields like construction, agriculture, and hospitality. Guess how many paid sick days a field worker is granted according to the US government? Zero. These industries are famous for their mistreatment of workers. Not having something like paid parental leave means a worker must use their own pay to arrange time off to have a child. A 2021 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that California’s paid parental leave program “…lowered the risk of poverty among mothers of infants by 10.2 percent and increased household income for those mothers by 4.1 percent, on average. California’s program also significantly reduced food insecurity among households following childbirth”.
The pay gap is even worse for Latina mothers who earn 53 percent less than white fathers, LeanIn reported. Latinxs are the least likely to have access to paid sick days (only 38.4 percent) or paid parental leave (only 25.1 percent) of any racial or ethnic group, American Progress reported. Furthermore, women who take paid leave are 93 percent more likely to be in the workforce nine to 12 months after a child’s birth than women who take no leave, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Provide negotiation training for employees.
“Paying for negotiation training would be the most cost-effective silver bullet for companies to close the wage gap and improve productivity,” Vanessa Menchaca Wachtmeister from Wander Onwards, a travel and wealth platform, tells HipLatina.
“The corporate world is just one long negotiation process and giving women access to this training will help them be more effective in their jobs and when negotiating better salaries. In 2018, my company paid for negotiation training for 40 of us and it changed my life for the better. five years later, I’m still at the company and feel taken care of.”
Companies that provide employee training see more employee retention, according to a LinkedIn survey from 2019. A negotiation-specific training would give Latinas the personal tools they need to negotiate for more money and more work benefits.
Regular Internal company pay audits.
We know there is a systemic pay gap, but companies shy away from reviewing their salary data to find out what’s going on in their own businesses.
Putting an annual salary review into place would allow companies to see if new hires, hires across different departments and if raises for all their employees are fair and equal. While this is most likely to benefit women of color at work, it’s also a good protection for all workers. A 2019 pay audit at Google found that it was underpaying men so imagine what women of color are dealing with.
If your employer doesn’t currently do annual audits (and most don’t), you might be able to advocate at work for it. Generally, you should only bring this conversation up if you hold sway within the company, or you have the backing of a lot of fellow employees. It’s a very delicate thing for workers to advocate for. Start by bringing numbers with you: numbers around how equal pay leads to better retention and numbers about company profit (and therefore being able to afford it). And it’s always a good idea to know where your state lands on equal pay — many states have some sort of initiative or law around workplace equality that you can use to back up your push for the audit.
Talk about money with family and friends.
While personal finance is much more commonly discussed online, many households still struggle to discuss money. This might be especially true if cultural norms dictate that children do not discuss money. But having family discussions around budgeting, investing, and saving can be a financial gift in and of itself.
“As a daughter of Latin immigrants, we did not shy away from talking about money. What I’ve seen to work best when talking about money is introducing passive income and investments that don’t ignore our busy schedules. How much you make at your 9-5 is not a limit to how much you can make. My dad always told us that “the money is already printed, it’s up to us to go get it”, Sahirenys Pierce of The Poised Lifestyle tells HipLatina.
“This opened the door for our family to have conversations about money and how to make more of it in a passive format. But what we don’t do is talk about how to manage our money, our debts, or the stress of maintaining our assets and lifestyle,” she adds. “The mindset of ‘just make more and all your financial problems will go away’ is a toxic venom that’s being spread in the finance community, in the Latin community, and towards women. Making money and managing your money are two different skill sets that need to be practiced and maintained. This is part of the money conversation that needs to be added in order to help our community become better money managers and financial problem solvers.”
Broadening how and when we talk about money in our personal lives is a tool that we can take into the workplace to get the pay that we deserve.
Find mentors and advocate for each other
No one wins alone. Finding mentors and building community in your workplace is a way to build the personal and systemic support that so many of us need in corporate environments. Mentors can give insight into how negotiation and promotions work, and advocate for you at a high level. If you’re in a position of power, using that power to put Latinas on your workplace team, or suggesting them for higher positions, is a way to see more women succeed at work. You can start to look for a mentor by seeing if there is an established program already in place at your job, or if there is something like an employee resource group for women or for Latinxs, and asking a member of it to mentor you. If this doesn’t exist, maybe you can spearhead it or you can do something more simple like create a Facebook group or Slack channel to talk about money.
When we have change come from the very top of the government and from our own personal efforts, we’ll see massive social change And we are long overdue for that.