November 24, 2020

Latinas still endure one of the widest pay gaps of any group. On Latina Equal Pay Day, heres what policymakers, organizations, and companies can do to combat pay discrimination.

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  • Latinas endure some of the largest pay gaps of any group — in 2019, they had to work 22 months to make what white men earned in 12 months.
  • Equity can only be achieved if policymakers, companies, and organizations work together to combat pay discrimination.
  • Vote for politicians who support equitable pay — like the Paycheck Fairness Act — family-friendly policies, and accessible child care. 
  • Organizations need to provide professional resources, growth opportunities, and wage transparency so that Latinas feel empowered to ask for salaries they deserve. 
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Latinas had to work 22 months to make what white men earned for 12 months in 2019. The exact date that Latinas will catch up is October 29, 2020. 

Despite it being 50 years since the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Latinas still endure the widest pay gap of any group as they earn only 55 cents on the dollar relative to non-Latino white men. In California, the Latina pay gap is more severe than the national average, as Latinas make 42 cents on the dollar of what white men earn. And the pay gap has only been getting wider for Latinas, who earned 66 cents per a white man’s dollar in 2017.

Regardless of occupation, level of education, or experience, Latinas are subject to a racist and sexist double pay gap. White men in every industry from housekeeping to software development earn more than Latinas at the same level. Almost $30,000 is stolen from Latinas each year who work full time due to the wage gap. It’s unacceptable that Latinas are still not being paid what they’re owed. 

The Latina pay gap won’t be closed overnight. Equity in the workplace will only be achieved when all workers are paid a fair wage. Here’s what must be done to close the Latina pay gap.

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Legislation

Policymakers have the ability to close the Latina pay gap. You can vote for politicians that support local and federal legislation that will create equitable pay — such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide resources for workers to combat wage discrimination. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act bill is meant to update the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which has been inadequate in closing the wage gap since the Latina pay gap still exists. In addition to banning wage discrimination based on gender, the legislation would also prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about wage practices or disclose their own wages, permit wage comparisons between employees, and allow penalties for equal pay violations.

And Congress should fund a national infrastructure for caregiving by passing the Healthy Families Act, which guarantees employees will have the right to earn at least seven paid sick days annually, which can be used to care for their families or themselves. 

Family-friendly policies such as paid maternity leave will also help close the Latina wage gap. Implementing paid maternity leave on the federal level will help Latinas continue providing for their families, as they’re often the breadwinners of their families

Politicians should support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which protects pregnant workers from being fired unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications to support a healthy pregnancy. 

Accessible child care is also critical. The Child Care Working Families Act of 2019 would ensure that families under 150% of the state median income level would pay no more than 7% of their total income on child care. Families under 75% of the state median income level wouldn’t pay for child care. 

Office support

Companies must take action to confirm they have the desire to close the wage gap. Most senior-level positions are held by white men — the system that works for them, so why would they change it? Many organizations state that they’re committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but continue to pay Latina leaders less resulting in inequitable growth opportunities. 

Latinas are more likely to be held back for promotions than white men. A 2019 Lean IN study found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 68 Latinas are promoted.

Latinas get far less professional support at work. Lean IN reports that white men report having access to senior leaders at nearly three times the rate of Latinas. Similarly, Latinas are offered less mentorship, with just 21% of Latinas saying they’ve had a mentor or sponsor at some point in their career, compared to 31% of white men.⁠ 

Latinas are also receiving less access to training; only 19% of Latinas have received leadership training, compared to 33% of white men. To combat the Latina pay gap those in senior-level positions must create equitable opportunities for Latinas apart from their salaries. 

Read more: As Black Harvard Law School students, we’ve encountered racism at Harvard and elsewhere. But anti-Blackness goes far beyond our privileged Ivy League experiences — it’s deeply rooted in American law and policy.

Wage transparency

Much of the burden of closing the Latina wage gap falls onto companies. Organizations have an essential role, and must assess the pay gap and close any gender or racial pay gaps. To help Latinas negotiate a fair salary, companies must be transparent regarding their employees’ salaries and post salary ranges in job listings. Human resources departments must abolish archaic rules that prohibit staff from discussing their salaries.

Employers must eliminate the use of salary history to set wages as this creates a vicious cycle of Latinas being prohibited from reaching fair pay as the Latina pay gap will follow them from job to job. In California, it’s illegal for a potential employer to ask an applicant what their former salary was. 

Making the Latina pay gap work for you

Closing the Latina pay gap shouldn’t fall on our shoulders — but, in the meantime, we can use the pay gap to negotiate salaries. Do your research and keep apprised of salary data to know what is comparable pay based on your breadth of experience. Use this information to negotiate your salary. Always ask for a salary range and avoid providing your salary expectations. If you must provide a number, double what you earned in your previous role as you can rest assured that it’s likely close to what a white man would earn for the position.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).