In various sectors, a collective movement is emerging, advocating for enhanced conditions. From actors, writers, and hotel employees to domestic workers, farm laborers, and auto industry professionals, countless Latina workers lead the ongoing battle for fair wages. Despite being the backbone of the American economy, Latina women, earning a mere $0.52 for every dollar their white male counterparts make, continue to be the lowest-paid demographic. For Latinas with advanced degrees, like an MBA, the gender pay gap is even higher. At the current rate, the wage gap compared to white, non-Hispanic men will not close until 2210 for Latinas. According to a recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Latinas stand to lose more than $1.2 million over a 40-year career due to the wage gap—and Latinas with a professional degree stand to lose nearly $2.5 million over their career to the wage gap.
This persistent wage disparity resonates far beyond the immediate challenges of meeting basic needs; it strikes at the core of Latina women’s financial stability and overall well-being. Deborah Vagins, National Campaign Director for Equal Rights Advocates, underscores that this inequality not only hinders Latinas from fulfilling immediate needs but also obstructs lifelong aspirations.
“The wage gap and the loss of earnings prevents Latinas from being able to save money and build intergenerational wealth,” Vagins explains. “There is a lifetime of an impact if you bring home less than you rightfully earn.”
This October 5, leaders, advocates and influencers across the nation are pledging to take action as champions of gender parity – not only for Latina Equal Pay Day but for every day.
As a leading expert in civil rights, economic justice, and survivor justice policy, Vagins emphasizes that because Latinas are historically overrepresented in industries that are underpaid they often also lack basic workplace protection.
“Many Latinos are consistently excluded from critical employment protections as farm workers, domestic workers, and migrant seasonal and part-time workers,” Vagins says. ”They’re often paid minimum or sub-minimum wage, and immigration status can also further exacerbate their vulnerability to wage theft and workplace harassment.”
Cultural factors often intersect with workplace challenges for Latina migrant women. Justice for Migrant Women President and Founder Mónica Ramírez says while Latinas throughout the country shape homes, communities, classrooms, and boardrooms, their essential work goes unrecognized and underpaid.
“Cultural barriers can place a significant burden on Latinas in the workplace, and ultimately, it’s up to employers to unlearn the stereotypes and false narratives surrounding Latinas,” Ramírez tells MBAchic. “Whether it is discrimination, outdated gender roles, or legal status and vulnerability, Latinas across this nation encounter challenges in the workplace. Developing a sense of belonging can be difficult when cultural norms for Latinas are considered unprofessional or are viewed negatively. Ultimately, the cultural factors that intersect in the workplace for Latina migrants are not theirs to fix; they are a responsibility that employers should and must own.”
In countless interactions with Latina migrant women, the Justice for Migrant Women team has noticed common patterns directly related to discriminatory practices that minimize, undervalue and underestimate the power that Latinas bring to the workplace. But in spite of this, examples of personal triumph and resilience in the face of challenge motivates the team to continue fighting for equality.
“For migrant workers, particularly those who feed our nation through essential labor on farms, many go without the basic dignity that should be afforded to them, ranging from a lack of water, hygienic supplies and protective equipment while on the job,” Ramírez says. “On top of working labrous roles, these jobs fail to compensate workers with a living wage making it nearly impossible for them to care for and provide for their families.”
Policy Makers, Business Owners & You
There is not one cause or one solution to address the wage gap for Latinas, but there are effective steps to take to narrow the gap. Implementing transparent pay practices, banning the use of prior salary history when setting wages, posting job ranges so people understand the pay for that job, abolishing the sub-minimum wage, increasing the federal minimum wage, creating new workplace harassment protections, and strengthening and passing new equal pay laws are all important steps.
“Of course supporting paid leave, sick leave, and other workplace protections for categories of people who do not currently have them under our employment and labor laws [matter],” Vagins adds. “Those are things that we are seeking policy changes for at the state and federal level, we’re urging policymakers to make those changes.”
Equal Rights Advocates has a helpful policy agenda to further familiarize with several policy solutions and provide tools for advocates and allies. One of the most powerful ways to support equal pay is through emailing Congressional Representatives about legislative actions you support.
The Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act of 2023 are currently being discussed as potential solutions to address pay gaps. These legislative measures could greatly impact the wage disparities faced by Latina workers through substantial reform. In essence, the discussions surrounding the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act of 2023 signify a pivotal moment in the fight for workplace equality, offering hope for Latina workers who have long grappled with wage disparities. If implemented, these legislative measures could not only bridge existing gaps but also pave the way for a more just and inclusive work environment, ensuring that Latina workers are fairly compensated for their dedication and expertise.
The Paycheck Fairness Act: This legislation has been pending in Congress for many years and has come close to passage a couple times. At its core, it modernizes and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which was the first federal equal pay law. It protects workers from retaliation from discussing their pay, bans the use of prior salary history when setting current wages, and it codifies the collection of pay data by the collection and reporting of pay data by employers among other protections.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2023: This federal legislation aims to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $17 an hour by 2028 so that a worker’s minimum wage no longer depends on their zip code. This bill also eliminates the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, a vital change for vulnerable employees who are dependent on customer tips. The federal minimum hourly wage has not increased in 14 years, the longest period of congressional inaction in the history of the minimum wage. As a result, the real, cost-of-living-adjusted value of the minimum wage has fallen by 30%.
Latinas Showing Support
Empowering Latina women begins with fostering a strong sense of community and solidarity. Recognizing Latina Equal Pay Day goes beyond raising awareness; it equips women with actionable strategies and resources. Several nonprofits contribute significantly to the Latina community. Here are a few noteworthy examples:
Latin Women in Action, Inc. is a comprehensive community based social service agency. Its mission and goals are to provide essential services to not only Latinas, but any family or individual seeking our help in New York City.
Latinas in Tech aims to connect, support, and empower Latina women working in tech. They work hand in hand with top technology companies to create safe spaces for learning, mentorship and recruitment.
The Latinas On the Verge of Excellence – L.O.V.E. Mentoring Program supports and empowers young Latinas to strive for success, both in school and in life, through mentorship and health interventions targeted at mental, reproductive and physical health as well as college and career readiness.
Latinitas focuses on empowering girls to innovate through media and technology. Through after-school clubs, camps, events and publications, and channels, the organization provides a space, both in the physical and online, for girls to develop their skills, learn about their culture and discover their voice.
MANA is a national grassroots membership organization with chapters, individual members and affiliates across the country. MANA focuses on education, health and well-being, financial literacy, equal and civil rights, and immigration reform.
Joselyn Martinez, a second-generation Dominican-American entrepreneur, has dedicated her career to supporting busy corporate and entrepreneurial women as they transition into lives of personal fulfillment and navigate the demands of the modern world.
“When going from employee to entrepreneur or business owner, we need to shift our mindset to that of a business person so that we can be open to charging our worth,” Martinez tells MBAchic. “We know the biggest wage gap exists within the Latina community, so it is our duty as entrepreneurs to learn as much as we can about our personal and business finances. We cannot allow the same thing to happen in our businesses by chronically undercharging and allowing people to negotiate us down to a price where we can’t cover our costs.”
Martinez further emphasizes that businesses and entrepreneurs can play a significant role in reducing the wage gap for Latina women by encouraging them to recognize their equal worth.
“Although we might not be seen as equal in worth, we must not allow ourselves to do the same, when we learn what we are worth and should be charging, we can pay ourselves a fair wage, as we deserve,” Martinez stresses. “Others can help us by respecting our work and not expecting work without fair compensation.”
Empowered Latina entrepreneurs contribute not just to the economy but also to the social fabric, creating opportunities and inspiring the next generation of strong, successful Latina leaders.
“This not only benefits the business owner but, in turn, her community,” Martinez says.
To raise awareness about Latina Equal Pay Day, join the social media storm at 2 pm ET/11 am PT on Thursday, October 5 using hashtags #LatinaEqualPay and #Trabajadoras. Delve into legislative actions, understand the potential impact, and advocate for a future where every Latina worker is recognized, valued, and compensated fairly for their invaluable contributions. Together, through awareness, advocacy, and collective action, we pave the way for lasting change.
Photo from Christina @ WoC in Tech