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Actionable Steps We Can Take To Address The Pay Gap Amongst Latinas And All Women Of Color

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Nov. 6 2020, Published 2:30 a.m. ET

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Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day — the day when Latina women have finally caught up to the earnings of their white male colleagues — is observed on October 29th. According to Latina Equal Pay, we earn approximately 54 cents for every dollar a white non-Latinx male earns. It takes an estimated 23 months to earn what our white male colleagues earned in 12 months last year.

Growing up in the United States, my parents tried to instill the values of hard work. As I grew older and entered the workforce, they also provided guidance about acceptable workplace behavior, rates, and red flags. At first, these things were helpful, but I noticed how much harder it was to recognize my worth after college.

When you’ve grown up in a community of people who are grateful to simply find work, it’s hard to think about your worth in the same way as someone with more privileges, social capital, and connections. As a first-generation immigrant, not everything my parents told me to do applied to the many professional situations I faced in this country.

Networking, branding, and “selling yourself” are parts of work and organizational culture that are very specific to the United States. Along with these issues, it can be challenging to discuss systemic racism, misogyny, and oppression with our parents and older loved ones. All of these cultural differences are some of the many obstacles we must face as we attempt to close the wage gap for Latinas.

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The Great Recession And Me

I dealt with many struggles in my quest to educate myself about industry wage gaps and how they would affect me. I graduated from university in 2009, at the height of the great recession. With so few jobs available I had to take whatever I could find to make ends meet. In conversations with friends, I noticed we struggled to find the balance between negotiating a fair salary and simply being grateful to have a job during a tough time.

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It was still taboo to talk about our economic hardships, but with student loan debt, medical debt, and a high cost-of-living, the time has come for Latinas and all people to be transparent about our earnings, the implicit biases that may affect us, and the concentration of power in white male hands. In 2017, Fortune magazine reported that seven out of ten company executives in Fortune 500 companies are white men. Part of the reasons for the continuing Latina wage gap is that practices like this continue to leave all people of color behind.

COVID-19 And The Wage Gap

COVID-19 has hit Latinas hard. From being more at risk of contracting the virus (I had an asymptomatic case myself), to losing jobs or contracts, it’s clear we must take further steps in addressing the systems that create and sustain economic inequality. According to ABC News, unemployment rates for Latinas went from 5.5 percent to 20.5 percent between February and April of this year.

Here are some actionable steps we can take to address the pay gap amongst Latinas and all women of color:

For Individuals:

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  • Research your job or position on websites such as the Department of Labor, or find allies who are willing to talk about what they earn.

  • Always negotiate 20 percent more than the baseline in your industry or than what you plan on earning. You may actually get it! If not, the worst thing that can happen is that your employer or client says no.

  • Document discriminatory policies, practices, and events you may be dealing with, especially if you notice that white or white male colleagues aren’t being asked to do these things. You can talk to human resources about this, or at least use this to motivate you to continue your job search if you don’t feel comfortable asking your current organization to implement these changes.

  • Talk about your hardships with friends, like-minded individuals, and people in your industry that you can trust. Not everyone is aware that their decisions to pay Latinas less are having a true impact on their lives.

  • Vote for political candidates who support the Equal Rights Amendment.

Research your job or position on websites such as the Department of Labor, or find allies who are willing to talk about what they earn.

Always negotiate 20 percent more than the baseline in your industry or than what you plan on earning. You may actually get it! If not, the worst thing that can happen is that your employer or client says no.

Document discriminatory policies, practices, and events you may be dealing with, especially if you notice that white or white male colleagues aren’t being asked to do these things. You can talk to human resources about this, or at least use this to motivate you to continue your job search if you don’t feel comfortable asking your current organization to implement these changes.

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Talk about your hardships with friends, like-minded individuals, and people in your industry that you can trust. Not everyone is aware that their decisions to pay Latinas less are having a true impact on their lives.

Vote for political candidates who support the Equal Rights Amendment.

For Organizations:

  • Assess earnings in your organizations and correct any pay gaps between women and men to ensure pay parity.

  • Be transparent about the salary you can offer. Not everyone knows how to negotiate for the highest wage. Offer it right away.

  • Train yourself on implicit bias, and ensure that all manager and HR reps with an authority to provide promotions, raises, or have any say in salaries are given this training.

  • Diversify your upper management, and ensure that pay parity is practiced and encouraged across the board.

  • Create systems that do not disproportionately place additional emotional or domestic labor on women. For example: if your office is planning a virtual event or in-person party, make sure that both women and men take part in any planning, as workplaces continue to place these burdens on women regardless of their title.

  • Take a look at the language you use to describe women’s leadership and make sure that you describe a leader as authoritative or assertive instead of simply “bossy” or “difficult”—unless you use these descriptors for male employees for similar behavior and work styles.

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Assess earnings in your organizations and correct any pay gaps between women and men to ensure pay parity.

Be transparent about the salary you can offer. Not everyone knows how to negotiate for the highest wage. Offer it right away.

Train yourself on implicit bias, and ensure that all manager and HR reps with an authority to provide promotions, raises, or have any say in salaries are given this training.

Diversify your upper management, and ensure that pay parity is practiced and encouraged across the board.

Create systems that do not disproportionately place additional emotional or domestic labor on women. For example: if your office is planning a virtual event or in-person party, make sure that both women and men take part in any planning, as workplaces continue to place these burdens on women regardless of their title.

Take a look at the language you use to describe women’s leadership and make sure that you describe a leader as authoritative or assertive instead of simply “bossy” or “difficult”—unless you use these descriptors for male employees for similar behavior and work styles.

To learn more about the wage gap Latinas face today, click here.

This piece was written by Ingrid Cruz and originally appeared on Modern Brown Girl

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