Thursday is Latina Equal Pay Day, the date on which a Latina finally earned the same amount that a non-Hispanic white man made in the previous year.
The fact that it took until the end of October—or nearly a full year of extra work—for this to be accomplished is a big problem, said Jessica Mason, a senior policy analyst for economic justice at the National Partnership for Women and Families.
Latinas working full-time and year-round are typically paid just over $36,000 a year, Mason says, while non-Hispanic white men were paid more than $67,000. That means a Latina woman makes just 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes. If we closed the wage gap, according to Mason, Latinas would on average be able to afford more than three years of childcare, more than three years of tuition and fees at a four-year public university, or 4.3 years’ worth of food for their families.
Latina women are among the lowest-paid demographics in the country and, based on current projections, won’t achieve pay equity for another 185 years, according to Shannon Williams, the director of the Equal Pay Today campaign. Other demographics—including Asian women, white women, Black women, and Native American women—had their own Equal Pay Days marking similar statistics, and smaller wage gaps with white men, earlier this year.
“Fields dominated by women and especially women of color are grossly underpaid—service, retail, education, domestic work,” Williams wrote in an email. “These industries were universally recognized as essential over the past year and a half. Our economy and society can’t function without them. They should be paid accordingly.”
The historical problem of pay equity for Latinas stems from many factors including gender and racial discrimination, discrimination in promotions, and workplace harassment, says Mason. “A huge step forward would be for the United States to finally invest in childcare, invest in community-based services for elders and people with disabilities, and enact national paid family medical leave, so that folks could take care of those needs and still keep their jobs,” Mason said.
Apart from a lack of support, Latinas faced some of the worst job losses during the pandemic because many were frontline workers in restaurants, childcare, or as health care workers. Although it seemed in spring of last year that the unemployment rate for Latinas dropped substantially, Mason said, this is because many lower-paid Latinas left the workforce.
Latinas also have a lack of opportunity, says Laura Espriu, who works in talent development and diversity, equity, and inclusion at Twitter. One key to improving pay equity is giving Latinas the connections and the training to get ahead in their careers, she explains. Espriu, who emigrated from Mexico, hosts a Lean In Circles group in Seattle in which Latinas network and learn about self-promotion, office culture, and leadership development.
“It’s not about fixing us, because we don’t need to be fixed, but it’s about providing the resources,” she says.
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