Latina employees are 'extremely optimistic' about closing the pay gap: 'It's all about the one hand forward, one hand behind'

·4 min read

Oct. 21 is Latina Equal Pay Day — the day when a Latina employee’s pay catches up to what white men were paid the previous year. 

“It takes almost 22 months to make the same amount of money that my counterpart male would make,” Marissa Munoz, a senior manager of business strategy and operations, told In The Know. 

The date is not so much a celebration but rather a reminder of the ongoing pay inequality in the U.S. It’s predominantly Black, Latina and Native women who are disproportionately impacted by the lack of pay and resources. 

“Latinas traditionally make $0.55 on the dollar compared to U.S. white Hispanic males and 30% less than white women,” Sam Brown added to In The Know. 

Brown, who is in corporate business development strategic partnerships, is quoting a 2020 statistic that hasn’t really changed in over 30 years. Latina women’s pay gap surpasses all women in other racial groups and, according to data from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), it has dire consequences. 

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“Assuming that a Latina and her white male counterpart both start working at age 20,” NWLC reports, “due to this wage gap, a Latina will have to work until she’s 92 to earn what her white male peer earned by 60.”

It doesn’t help that money can be considered a taboo topic within Latinx families. But the pay disparities, and the inequality that comes with it, are becoming a critical issue.

“From my personal experience, I was raised in a family and [a] culture where you didn’t talk about finance,” Brown said. “You didn’t ask how much anyone made and so I was grateful to be offered a job. I didn’t negotiate the salary — I accepted it and said thank you.”

Amongst the women In The Know spoke to — Brown, Munoz, Lindsey Johnson, Yanuaria Luna and Carolina Chicoine — all of them remembered entering the workforce without the know-how to negotiate or challenge their job offers.

“Somebody would give you a job offer and you would think, ‘I’ll just take it because if I push back, they might think that I don’t want a job,'” Johnson said. 

In 1989, Latinas were paid $0.52 to every dollar a white man earned. Now with the COVID-19 crisis, experts also say that the disparities are clearer than ever. Women of color are overrepresented as front-line workers but are still getting paid less than the white men working in the same field, as reported by the NWLC.

“As Latina women, we need to be more confident about what we bring to the table,” Chicoine agreed. “If we come knowing our value, knowing our worth, knowing that we have a lot to bring in and it’s just as good and equal to our counterparts, I think we would be able to confidently negotiate better.”

Another purpose to Latina Equal Pay Day is to hear other women’s stories and connect. 

“The biggest thing that helped me was networking,” Luna said. “It’s important for us to talk to others and to share stories, so that way [younger Latina women] don’t feel like they’re on their own [like] we did.”

“I’m extremely optimistic about closing the pay gap,” Brown said. “[We have] more of a voice, more seats at the table … we have representation. I think that will just spur more women, more Latinas to come. It’s all about the one hand forward, one hand behind.”

In terms of up-and-coming Latina workers, Brown and Munoz had concrete advice that can hopefully change the tides of a problem that hasn’t budged in decades.

“You have a voice, you’re smart, speak up. Take classes. Meet everyone in your office and outside of your office,” Brown said. “Know the business inside and out so that you are directing your career.”

“If I could give any advice for first-generation Latinas who are coming out of school [and] going into the workforce, it’s important [you] do research,” Munoz added. “Say, ‘What is the value I’m adding?’ That’ll give you the opportunity to talk to your employer [about the] experience.”

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