Beating the Wage Gap: Latinas' Struggle for Equal Pay

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By Iris Estrada
 
After the mark of Equal Pay Day on April 17th, the internet has been buzzing with information about the whopping wage gap American women face today.
 
Numbers show that females within different occupations still make significantly less than their male counterparts, according to the American Association of University Women.  Overall, women are making 77 cents for each dollar that a man earns, but statistics vary within different ethnic groups as well.
 
Latinas hold the biggest wage gap, making 55 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Meaning, for every $1 a white man makes, a Latina doing the same job is only paid 55 cents.
 
In 2010, an average, full-time working white man earned $47,715 a year. If we take the salary gap into account, that means Latinas took home $26,243 —that’s $21,472 less a year!
 
Latinas with a bachelor’s degree experience an even greater salary gap earning nearly $31,000 less than white males with the same educational background.
 
But the gap doesn’t end there — Latinas are not only making less than their male counterparts, they also earn less than other women.
 
Latinas median weekly earnings add up to $518 while African Americans make $595; Caucasians earn $703 and Asian women rake in $751.
 
Despite the wage gap, Latinas are starting their own businesses at six times the national average, making them the country’s fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs.
 
Vanessa Cardenas is the director of Progress 2050, a project by American Progress in Washington D.C., an independent, educational institute dedicated to improving Americans’ lives through progressive ideas and action.
 
She says that one of the reasons Latinas may be sitting at the bottom of the payroll is because many of us don’t know how to sell ourselves in the workplace.  “I think that [certain] cultural values like being humble and not creating conflict are things that are actually holding us back on the job,” says Cardenas. “We’re not encouraged to talk about our strengths and the things that we’ve accomplished [but] that’s how people get ahead.”
 
Another reason why Latinas are suffering from the widest wage gap? Immigration reform.
 
“I think it’s one of the biggest obstacles for Latinas working in low wage jobs,” Cardenas said. “A significant number of Latinas are pretty much tied to their immigration status therefore when they get a job they accept whatever terms are set out for them because they have to make a living, they have to support their families.”

Professional latina 

Call us loca, but we believe equal work deserves equal pay. Thankfully, Cardenas has some great tips on how to get ahead in the workforce (and help eliminate that gap!):
 
Promote yourself: As Cardenas already mentioned, it’s up to women to show companies what they’re worth. “We need to go out there and be advocates for our own selves [and] figure out ways that we can really toot our own horn [and] show the work that were doing.”
 
Look forward: Cardenas believes women don’t need a definitive 10-year-plan for the future, but she does think that it’s important for women to be clear on what they need to be moving ahead. “People want to show trajectory in their work,” she said. “You’re showing that you’re acquiring new skills, that your portfolio is expanding and you’re stepping out of your comfort zone.”
 
Vote: “Elect people that are supportive of a woman’s right to pay,” she says. “One important way of helping ourselves is by ensuring that there are laws that actually help us. It’s really important to start educating ourselves about what those laws are, who supports them and who doesn’t, and actually start participating in state elections as well as national elections.”
 
Find a mentor, be a mentor: Cardenas has two mentors she met while she was in high school who inspired her to achieve her goals and today she’s a mentor to many teenagers herself. She thinks it’s important for Latinas to develop a network and start making connections with successful people in their fields who might provide them with helpful advice. “Whenever you speak to anyone in any type of good position they’re going to tell you that their mentors were hugely important,” Cardenas said.

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