America Ferrera: Latinas are essential. Pay us.
Nearly 60 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, Latina workers, on average, are still paid only 55¢ on the dollar compared with white men. That’s regardless of industry, age, location, career length, or education level—55¢ on the dollar. Which means Latinas had to work all of 2019 and right through 2020 until today just to earn what white men in the same field earned in 2019 alone.
This pervasive Latina pay gap tells the story that our work, our families, and our lives are valued less. So let’s be clear: Our value and our worth isn’t determined by our employers. Our value comes from the countless contributions we make in society, from our drive and our commitment, our passions and experiences, and the fact that we are human—no more and no less than anyone else. The failure to recognize and fairly compensate our contributions to society does not diminish our value, but it does diminish the resources and opportunities we have to provide for our families and to thrive.
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The irony of this disparity couldn’t be more apparent than it is today. We may be valued less, but Latinas are among the pandemic’s most essential workers. When most Americans were told to stay safe at home, many Latinas didn’t have the luxury of protecting themselves and their families first. They were called to the front lines to protect other Americans; to do the work of caring for sick Americans in hospitals, working the fields to keep Americans fed, or supporting other families through domestic work. Even though the Latinx community makes up less than 20% of the U.S. population, we make up over 40% of workers in both the meatpacking and farming industries.
The Latinx community is essential at all times, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the struggle for economic security in the Latinx community. And Latinas are still paid only 55¢ on the dollar.
It’s time for a new story.
Latinas are more than the paltry representation and tired stereotypes we see reflected in American culture. We are powerful and essential from fields to frontline hospitals, classrooms to boardrooms. We are contributing across business, technology, entertainment, government, and beyond. We are more than deserving of fair pay for the great and essential value we add to our country’s economy and well-being. It’s high time that others acknowledge that accordingly. Latinas deserve to have our power reflected in the culture and in our paychecks.
America Ferrera is an activist, actor, director, producer, and cofounder of She Se Puede, a digital lifestyle community and media platform that inspires, affirms, and informs Latinas to leverage their power in a way that transforms their lives, families, and community.