Here’s Why Latinas Are Abandoning Corporate America
On Tuesday, it was #LatinaEqualPay Day, marking the nearly 305 extra calendar days it would take for Latinas to equal what non-Hispanic white men took home last year. Yes, that’s nearly an entire year of additional, full-time work. Latina employees are paid less than every other race or gender in the United States, but the gap is widest with white men: They get 54% of what white men get paid for similar work.
What does this mean for your talent pipeline? Latina employees are underpaid, overworked and opting out. More on that in a moment.
The wage gap has serious ramifications. A study published earlier this year by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) shows that the gender wage gap for Latinas is more than $ 1 million over their lifetimes. “In fact, what you see is that the wage gap gets bigger over the course of a woman’s career,” Emily Martin, NWLC general counsel and vice president for workplace justice, told Fortune last April. “If you start making a little less and then your raises are based on a percentage of your salary, the gap grows over time.”
There are many possible reasons for this. Part of the issue is that Latinas are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and are often financially penalized for their caregiving roles. But that doesn’t explain the jobs that require specialized training or advanced degrees – like financial services or physicians – with similarly wide gender-based gaps.
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These dismal numbers mean that Latinx talent is opting out of corporate life in increasing numbers. According to The Kauffman Index: Startup Activity 2015, last year more than 40% of new entrepreneurs were African American, Latinx or Asian, an increase across all categories. The majority of those new entrepreneurs were Latinx, who accounted for 22.1% of the new entrepreneurs last year. But Latina and black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country.
Ana Flores understands the impulse. “I definitely abandoned the corporate world,” she says. Flores left a career in corporate media (MTV, Univision, and NBC) to found the #WeAllGrow Latina Network, a marketing agency that creates campaigns and live events for brands that want to connect with Latina consumers.
“One of the biggest barriers we face in our executive lives is the lack of inclusive work environments that value and promote diversity,” she says, adding that Latinas are typically perceived as a homogenous group, saddled with identical stereotypes. The Cinco de Mayo parties just don’t cut it. “In fact, as a cultural group, we’re multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, with many diverse backgrounds, countries of origin and levels of acculturation and assimilation to the U.S.”
That makes it hard to find sponsors, mentors and role models to lead the way.
Flores’s firm is actually a network of Latina women, some 2,300 bloggers, social media figures and entrepreneurs who participate in online and offline initiatives, like a home safety campaign for Tide detergent, or a bi-lingual Twitter party for Disney’s Elena of Avalor. She says it’s a smart way for brands to reach Latina consumers who have a spending power of $1.3 trillion and who primarily look to each other for purchasing advice.
But companies like hers serve a secondary, and perhaps more important, purpose, she says. It’s also a mission. “We’ve taken matters into our own hands to provide what corporate life could not,” she says. “We’re a networking community that offers mentorship and peer support,” she says. “We really do help each other grow in other areas of our lives, including our corporate work, in entrepreneurship and even politically.”
Ellen McGirt is a senior editor at Fortune.