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On #LatinaEqualPayDay, Advocates Are Pushing for Change

Latinas make 54 cents compared to a non-Latino white men's annual earnings in 2016, according to a report. On #LatinaEqualPayDay, advocates push for changes to reduce the disparity.
A file photo of the Latinas Think Big summit.
A file photo of the Latinas Think Big summit.Carlos Perez

When it comes to median annual earnings, Latinas make 54 cents compared to a dollar earned by non-Latino white men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). This means Latinas would have to work 10 more months in a year to reach the same level of pay.

Women make almost half of the workforce, and only earn 80 cents to every dollar a man makes. But while non-Latina white women could close that gap by 2059, it would take Latinas until 2233 to reach parity.

Latinas and Latinos from across the country have been taking to Twitter with the hashtags #LatinaEqualPayDay and #Trabajadoras in an effort led by The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, to talk about the issue and advocate for solutions. The organization is hosting a summit in Washington, D.C.

The earnings narrative hasn’t changed significantly for Latinas in the last 10 to 20 years, said Ariane Hegewisch, Program Director of Employment and Earnings at IWPR. She said there are many reasons, ranging from a lack of guidance in the higher education system to steer Latinas into higher-paying jobs and careers as well as issues of workplace discrimination.

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For young working mothers, graduating from college and finding childcare at the same time becomes increasingly difficult, limiting women's job opportunities and salary potential. First-generation Latina college students whose parents have not gone through the college to career pipeline need extra guidance and support in order to navigate and graduate from college, Hegewich explained.

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“We have to be optimistic,” Hegewisch said, citing that the number of Latinas with a college education is growing.

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More Latinos are getting a post-secondary education than ever before, according to the Pew Research Center, but they are still behind other groups in getting four-year degree and incur more debt than most.

Liliana Gil Valletta, an entrepreneur speaking at the #LatinaEqualPayDay Summit and co-founder of the consulting and marketing firm CIEN+, reaching #LatinaEqualPay means putting in daily effort into this. After completing a 10-year tenure position at Johnson & Johnson, Gil Valletta heads her own company and is focused on hiring women.

Valletta said she did not think to ask and demand a higher salary for herself, something she would do today.

“I wonder how much I could have negotiated and I never did in 10 years as a corporate executive," she said.

Closing the wage gap for Latinas means talking about money, and this starts at home, where it tends to be taboo to talk about the topic in many Latino households, Valletta added.

While Latinas have to be more confident about demanding higher wages, employers have to be transparent when hiring and promoting in order to help close the pay gap.

“At the end of the day it’s about accountability on the side of the employers that set policy and have access to the data,” Valletta said. “They have the power when it comes to paying and hiring people.”

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