Latinas Demand Equal Pay Now (OPINION)

Oct 21, 2021
12:54 PM

Photo by Evelyn Martínez/Getty Images Nosotros Collection

By Helen Torres

October 21 marks Latina Equal Pay Day, the day in 2021 when the average Latina earns what the average White, non-Hispanic man earned by the end of 2020. To make what White men earn by the age of 60, Latinas would have to work until the age of 116.

Latinas in the U.S. earn 57 cents to the dollar earned by a White man, which is the largest pay gap among all women. For Latinas in California, the wage gap is even larger, at 42 cents for every dollar earned by a White man —the most significant wage gap in the nation.

Latinas are resilient, but enough is enough. We deserve equal pay for equal work.

Systemic discrimination persists, and in order to close the wage gap, it must be addressed. We can do this by acknowledging that the pay gap exists and by rooting it out through policies that provide transparency and accountability.

In California, the state legislature should revisit legislative efforts to require employers to report wage information and work in tandem with the Latino Legislative Caucus’s Unseen Latinas initiative to develop policies that address the pay gap. Public and private employers must take wage inequality head on through official policies and be transparent about their wage practices. And we should all support and invest in organizations like Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) who are actively advocating for economic parity for Latinas.

Even when controlling for educational attainment and job sector, the pay gap for Latinas is persistent. HOPE’s Economic Status of Latinas Report shows that in California regions where high-paying industries like tech and entertainment dominate, and Latinas are under-represented, Latinas have even larger pay gaps than in the rest of the state. Latinas in Silicon Valley earned less than 34 cents for every dollar earned by a White man, and in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan regions, they earned only 38.2 cents. In addition to being woefully underrepresented in traditionally high-paying fields like computing and mathematical occupations, Latinas still earn 9 percent less than their White male counterparts.

Latinas are also going to college at higher rates than ever before, but the gap is largest for Latinas with bachelor’s degrees, who earn 37 percent less than White men on average, as shown by a Lean In study.

The wage gap is compounded by discriminatory practices that start with education when we’re not afforded the same opportunities, in employer hiring practices that exclude Latinas, in outright pay discrimination, and much more.

HOPE’s recent Latina Pulse study, which surveyed Latinas nationwide, confirmed 30 percent of Latinas have experienced discrimination in the workplace by co-workers, supervisors and/or clients.

HOPE’s statewide research also confirms the disparity in pay for California Latinas is reflected in their sentiments around discrimination. Forty-four percent of California Latinas feel discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity, and 68 percent of Latinas in the state are concerned with being denied opportunities like jobs or housing because of their race or ethnicity.

The implications of these economic losses for Latinas’ quality of life, their ability to provide for their families and save for retirement, and their Social Security benefits, are dramatic and exacerbated by the high cost of living in California. The loss of each woman’s potential contributions to the economy means that the harm caused by the wage gap extends beyond the individual to our entire society.

Latinas are economic powerhouses who drive almost two trillion dollars in Hispanic purchasing power. They are the CEOs of their households. And they are entrepreneurial, opening businesses at six times the national average. If we can close these equity gaps, we will be investing in an energized, resourceful and powerful segment of our population capable of fueling our economy forward.


Helen Torres is CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has empowered communities through advocacy, Latina leadership training, and increasing knowledge on the contributions Latinas have made to advance the status of women for over 30 years. Twitter: @HOPELatinas