Closing the Latina wage gap is the ‘most important business issue,’ advocates say

National Latina Equal Pay Day, recognized on Thursday, highlights the fact that for every dollar paid to a non-Hispanic male, Latinas are paid only 57 cents — meaning they have to work at least 21 months, nearly two years, to match a white man’s yearly income.

The organization Justice for Migrant Women and the Equal Pay Today! Coalition hosted a virtual event Thursday alongside a wide variety of Latina business leaders and activists.

“We all know this is not right. It is not equal, and it is certainly not equitable,” said Mónica Ramírez, the founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women.

The income inequality hits harder for Latinas, who experienced the largest decline in employment over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic compared to any other group. From February to May 2020, about 21 percent of Latinas in the workforce lost their jobs.

While unemployment numbers have decreased this year, the Latina unemployment rate remains at about 6 percent, compared to the overall jobless rate of 4.8 percent.

If nothing is done to help close the Latina wage gap, it will take at least 176 years for Latinas to achieve equal pay, according to the American Association of University Women.

Rochester, N.Y., City Council member Jackie Ortiz, a co-founder of the Pay Equity Coalition, holds a sign at a news conference Aug. 13, 2020, in Rochester.Tina MacIntyre-Yee / Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / via USA TODAY Network

Another startling statistic: A Latina stands to lose about $1.2 million over a 40-year career if such pay disparities persist, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Veronica Segovia Bedon, a senior adviser for diversity and equity at AARP, said in the virtual event that Latinas have a high life expectancy of about 84 years.

“We, as Latinas, are at higher risk of outliving our assets and living in poverty later in life than any other demographic,” Bedon said.

Supporting efforts to help workers grow their retirement savings should benefit Latinas in the long term because Latinas who earn $75,000 to $100,000 a year have the highest participation rates in their employer retirement plans, Bedon said.

Latinas are 1 percent of executives and less than 2 percent of board directors across Fortune 500 companies, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility.

Despite companies’ growing commitment to racial equity and diversity across all industries, Latinas and other women of color have seen no improvements in their day-to-day experiences in the workplace, according to the latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org, one of the largest studies of the state of women in corporate America.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is one of the most important business issues of our time,” Daisy Auger-Dominguez, the chief people officer at VICE Media, said during the event. “We can’t talk about equity at work and not address the persistent barriers that Latinas face each and every day.”

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Simonne Stigall

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