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Leon Kaye headshot

Latina Equal Pay Day — Why Its Occurrence on Dec. 8 Makes ‘Cents’

By Leon Kaye
Equal Pay Day

This year, Latina Equal Pay Day falls on December 8. No, it’s not a random date: Estimates suggest that Latinas earn about 55 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. Put another way, on average Latinas need to work about 23 months to reach the same income level as most white men. According to Equal Pay Day, one of the forces that’s behind publicizing days like December 8, full-time Latina workers earn about 57 cents to every dollar; for those who work part-time, the rate falls to about 52 cents on the dollar.

One typical reaction to this pay disparity is “well, that’s because women tend to fall into jobs that generally pay less.” Well, that argument might stand if one doesn't buy into nuance — the reality is far more complex. Reading the perspectives of these Latina entrepreneurs and professionals should put that assumption to rest.

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Take the perspective of Tammy Ramos, an attorney who received her J.D. from Notre Dame Law School and is the executive director of LatinaVida, a nonprofit that works with organization to boost the prospects of Latina professionals. In a recent op-ed, she recounted her experience in her early days as a corporate attorney:

…I remember working at my law office late one evening to meet my 2,000 hour per year billable requirement, when a White male associate who was hired at the same time waltzed into my office, letting out a huge sigh and exclaimed, “How in the world do they expect us to be able to bill 1,900 hours in our first year?” My rage almost got the best of me when I heard 1,900 hours, when I was required to bill 2,000, but I had already learned to mask my feelings and temper my reactions around White male colleagues. I did not want to feed the stereotype about Latinas being emotional and overly passionate. My immediate thought was that this male co-worker was earning more than I was despite the fact that I earned a law degree from a higher-ranked law school. This was the beginning of my awareness of the ridiculous pay gap that Latinas experience.

Among the fundamental problems that are behind such disparities is the lack of transparency surrounding how companies structure salaries, bonus pay and even management often chart career trajectories for various employees.

Assumptions about people’s backgrounds and bias comes into play, too. Sandra Valesquez, founder of the personal care products Nopalera, has encountered such attitudes as she built her business. In an emailed statement from Digital Divided, a coalition that seeks to expand economic opportunities for women of color, she summed up what’s driving Latina Equal Pay Day:

You would never ask L’Occitnane, ‘Are you only for French people?’ No. So why would you ask us if we’re only creating brands for our communities. … Until the day that people stop asking for Mexican products to be cheap, our mission is not over. No one cares about paying $5 for a croissant, [but] if a taco is $3…[it’s like] ‘Who do they think they are?’”

This is more than about educating, informing, and changing hearts and minds; the challenges out there include structural ones as well. On that point, the data out there suggest that this pay gap, after years of narrowing, has widened again — with the lingering effects of the pandemic proving to be among the primary reasons. Mónica Ramírez, the Justice for Migrant Women’s founder and president, sums up why bolder action on this front is needed:

"Latinas and our families have suffered the costs of the gender pay gap for decades. The pay gap impacts our ability to have what we need to live our lives with security. It impacts our ability to pay for our children to go to college, to save for the future, and to have confidence that we will have the financial footing to retire one day. The situation was bad before. It certainly has not gotten any better, and due to the grave impacts of the pandemic, the situation is likely worse."

Image credit: Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye