November 20, 2019 is Latina Equal Pay Day. Did you know that on average Latinas earn only 54 cents to every dollar that white men make? It’s been more than 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was past, but for Latinas, their pay is far from being equal. Latinas must work 305 extra days just to earn what the average white man earns in a year.
According to Lean In, even when you account for factors like occupation, education, experience, and geographical location, the pay gap remains as stark. In fact, the gap is even larger for Latinas with bachelor degrees. And the wage gap starts young. Even as early as the age of 16 years old, Latinas are being paid less than white boys of the same age.
This wage gap has a tremendous impact on families. Over half of Latina mothers are the sole breadwinners of their families. This means that this wage discrimination is not just disenfranchising these women, it’s also creating generational poverty. It means less money for groceries, rent, school fees, and childcare. When women are paid less than men, their families and communities suffer as well. Closing the wage gap would mean that Latina women would make an additional $26,000 a year. This could cover:
- The cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college
- 18 months of rent and utilities payments
- 3 years of child care
- 3.7 years of groceries
Economic empowerment equals women’s empowerment! When businesses don’t compensate Latina employees fairly, they fail to attract and retain them in their workforce. This might be why Latinas are starting their own businesses at a higher rate than any other group. In 2017, Latina-owned businesses grew by 172%! If you weren’t aware already, this demonstrates that Latinas are just as smart, capable and hardworking as their white, male counterparts, and should be compensated as such.
What We Can Do
While it should be the responsibility of corporations and policies to ensure that Latinas are compensated fairly and equally, there are things that we can do to help close this wage gap.
1. Raise awareness
1 in 3 Americans is not aware that there is a pay gap between Latinas and white men (LeanIn). By raising awareness we empower people to speak up for each other and advocate for what is fair. This also helps hold corporations and businesses responsible.
“Whether you’re in a position to influence someone’s direct compensation or not, there’s always the opportunity to educate and empower one another when it comes to pay inequity.” – Yai Vargas, Latinista
2. Promoting Latinas into leadership positions
If we are going to shift the balance, we need to empower the people who the pay gap directly influences. When Latinas are in leadership positions they are able to effect change at a more systemic level, which will have a greater impact for Latinas as a whole.
“We need to get Latinas in positions of power—across the board—from Washington to Hollywood to Silicon Valley, so they can have more input in policy, business, and cultural decisions that directly affect our families and bottom line.” – Robyn Moreno, Latina Media Ventures
3. Listen to Latinas
As a Latina woman myself, it is important for me to speak up about my experiences, and it is even more important for people in power to listen.
Sharing our experiences and listening to the experiences of others helps to create empathy, which in turn motivates people to take action. We can all work on fostering communities and spaces where sharing and listening takes place. Passing the microphone to those who are marginalized will allow us to learn and then be able to make decisions that create a fair workplace.
We can all be part of closing the wage gap for Latinas. Share the facts, advocate, hold companies accountable, and center the stories of Latinas. Together we can create a kinder, more equal society.
Elizabeth Endara is a writer, advocate, doula, yoga teacher and cat mom based in NYC. She loves Great British Bake-Off, Eastern Europe, snug coffee shops and writing about her feelings. She is the co-founder of a feminist blog called Release the Women and you can find out more about her work on her website, ElizabethEndara.com