The Real Cost Of Unequal Pay For Latinas

Dannie Fountain, who has been an account representative at Google in Chicago for three years, claims she received her first promotion recently with a 24% pay increase. “I paid just as much for my college education as the white men who are paid more than me, but I earn less to pay off those student loans,” the 26-year-old claims. “Despite having nearly three college degrees, the perceived value of my education and my work experience still isn’t enough to justify a full dollar.”
The experience Fountain describes is all too familiar as Latinas still face the largest wage gap of any demographic or among women. Although the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, Latinas earn only 55 cents for every dollar earned by white non-Latinx men. To raise awareness, Latina Equal Pay Day falls on the date when a Latina’s pay catches up with her white male counterpart’s earnings from the previous year. This year, Latina Equal Pay Day is observed on October 29. 
Latinas are projected to endure 200 more years of pay inequality, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. “We can’t afford to wait until 2220 to achieve equal pay. The kind of money that Latinas are being robbed of, one million dollars in her lifetime, would change people's lives, change communities, and enable families to invest more and grow their wealth that can then be passed to future generations,” says Shannon Williams, Director of Equal Pay Today.
It's important to note the work that is left to be done when it comes to the current statistics, given the vagueness that exists within those numbers. As Katelina Eccleston, founder of multimedia platform Reggaeton Con La Gata, points out: “Latinas' experiences aren’t synonymous. We aren’t one race, therefore we are not are a monolith," she says, raising the question of how Black Latinas are measured in this context systemically. "This #LatinaEqualPayday, I challenge all Latinas to question how this information is assessed and what it means for us to consume these ‘facts’ in spite of all of our differences."

The wage gap impacts Latina workers at every level

Working Latinas are currently overrepresented in essential low-wage jobs like janitors, domestic workers, and cleaners and underrepresented in high-wage professions like lawyers or surgeons — but the wage gap persists across the board. In fact, a 2019 Lean IN poll found that those holding advanced degrees are most impacted by the pay gap. 
Latinas are paid less for doing the same jobs as white men. “The wage gap experienced by Latina workers persists across the wage distribution and within occupations at every level,” Williams says. The median salary for a Latina working full-time in a year-round job is $36,110 while a white man earns $65,208. That $29,098 could cover two years of child care or three years of public university education for some. Furthermore, Latina chief executives earn $86,732 per year compared to $116,538 for white men. The gap is more than a numbers game — inequitable pay also creates a confidence gap.

Self-worth plunges due to the pay gap

Natalie Torres-Haddad had a final interview for a job with a white male CEO. “I forgot to take off my engagement ring, and the CEO’s response was that he wouldn’t be comfortable having a new bride away from her marriage.” The 39-year-old believes Latinas are tokenized and seen as “future wives, mothers, or caregivers that wouldn’t be able to commit 100% to the job like their male counterparts.”
Like many Latinas, Torres-Haddad feels “less than” knowing she makes half of what her white male peers earn. “We’re working an extra 10 months to do the same work as our male counterparts. It’s exhausting having to keep defending ourselves to be treated as equals,” says the Financially Savvy in 20 minutes podcast host.
A TIME’S UP national survey found that 63% of Latinas have faced discriminatory obstacles to higher pay. One in four Latinas has turned down a higher-paying job because of a sexist or racist work environment. 40% of Latinas state someone at work has said or implied they don’t work as hard because of their gender, race, or caregiving responsibilities. These scenarios impact Latinas' mental health and self-worth.
Katy* is one of the lowest-paid people at an environmental organization working as a digital campaigner, which makes her feel disheartened. “Even though I’m continually achieving goals, the organization undervalues me, my skills, and my work,” shares the 29-year-old. Their non-Latinx peers in similar roles make $20,000 more than they do. “Discovering that my work is considered to be cheaper reinforces the sense that I’m of a lesser value in the world,” she adds.
The pay gap also impacts stress levels. “Not having enough money to meet our basic needs takes its tolls. Financial insecurity results in frustration, depression, and feelings of failure or even worse,” says Mónica Ramírez, Founder and President of Justice for Migrant Women. “We cannot underestimate how this pay gap impacts us mentally, physically, and the consequences that it may also have on our family’s health.” In addition to stress caused by the pay gap, many non-white Latinas have to cope with the draining day-to-day emotional labor of enduring micro and macroaggressions at work.

Docked pay impacts Latinas in all aspects of their lives

Like many Latinas who aren’t paid the full dollar, Katie* supplements the pay gap through side hustles. “I have to work extra hard in my free time to supplement my income to make sure I can afford a home, to pay off student loans, and the bills,” she says.
Closing the Latina wage gap could lift some Latinx families out of poverty. The majority of Latina mothers are breadwinners, and 25% of Latinx families live in multigenerational households. Latinas often balance child care, demanding jobs, and financially support family members overseas. They provide for their families by paying for housing, purchasing groceries, paying for healthcare, and supplying education. “The discriminatory wage discrepancy goes far beyond a paycheck. It’s a trickle-down effect that plays a detrimental role in the lives of Latinas, their families, and entire communities,” says Yanira Merino, the National President of The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
Lower pay is a wellness issue as Latinas don’t have the same funds to afford healthcare or avoid food insecurity. “We don’t have as much money to buy food. We have to buy food that’s less expensive, which may also be less healthy,” adds Ramírez.

Half wages hinder Latinas from building generational wealth

Before her pay raise, Fountain made lateral moves at Google without merit-based pay increases and raised her concerns to HR. If she had been promoted after two years, she could’ve used the $15,000 in additional income to pay off debt, build an emergency savings account, and earn compound interest on investments that would allow her to build generational wealth.
When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson told Refinery29: "We believe compensation should be based on what you do, not who you are. Every year we run a rigorous pay equity analysis to make sure salaries, bonuses and equity awards are fair and there are no differences in pay attributable to gender, race, or age. If we find any differences in proposed pay we make upward adjustments. Last year, we made upward adjustments across every demographic category, totaling $5.1 million." The company also shared that it recently introduced a student loan repayment program for its U.S. employees that will start in 2021.
Merino believes that reaching pay parity for Latinas is a step towards achieving economic security for all. Latinas have a purchasing power of $1.7 trillion and have the highest rate of new entrepreneurs. The Latina wage gap’s negative impact on the economy trickles down into all of our communities and won’t be resolved until Latinas earn equitable pay.
“I, like many Latinas, haven’t been able to build wealth and don’t have the same kind of financial stability that my peers with my same academic training and profession have,” shares Ramírez. “The matriarchs in my family experienced the gap and passed it down to me... Businesses and employers are making a choice not to fix this problem and we are not backing down in our efforts to put an end to this problem."
*Some names have been changed

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