October 29, 2020, marks Latina Equal Pay Day, the day when a Latina’s pay catches up to one year’s salary for a white man. When Latinas make 55 cents to every dollar a white man makes, it takes nearly 11 months to hit this equal pay benchmark. It’s also the last Equal Pay Day of the year, which means Latinas make less than every other demographic.
More than half of Latinas are the breadwinners for their households. According to the organization National Partnerships for Women & Families, lower wages mean less money for food or their children’s education. This puts Latinx households at an unlevel playing field from an early age.
According to a 2019 survey by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Latinas make up about 25 percent of the early childcare and education workforce. Lucia Castillo, the head of a daycare center inside a South Florida university, said childcare workers are not voiceless, people are simply choosing not to listen.
“This pandemic has everyone speaking up about the importance of childcare so that families can go back to work and have a better sense of normalcy,” Castillo said. “But what about the actual childcare workers? Do people care if we’re supported and able to provide for our own kids?”
Castillo echoes a common sentiment among childcare workers across the nation, especially as their work responsibilities to keep kids safe grows. Someone that might be listening to the challenge childcare workers face is former Vice President Joe Biden who released a $775 billion plan as part of his Presidential campaign platform that includes better pay and benefits for childcare workers.
Despite economic barriers Latinas face, research from Stanford Business School finds an increase of Latinas in business and that “they are motivated by ‘immigrant optimism,’ and through psychological acculturation, this group excels as entrepreneurs.” This rings true for Juanita Velez, the Lead Program Manager of International Social Media Strategy for Delta Airlines and the founder of Hispanic Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs (HYPE).
“I can hear my Papi saying ‘we are so lucky to be in this country’ every time I’m feeling down,” Velez said. “I think there’s a lot of truth in the immigrant optimism, This belief that we can accomplish anything in America, that we’re here to make a mark, shape our future generation’s lives and elevate our Latinx community.”
In 2017, Nielsen coined the term “Latina Ascent” in its report, “Latina 2.0: Fiscally Conscious, Culturally Influential & Familia Forward” report. Latinas are “breaking the glass ceiling by continuing to push forward—becoming breadwinners and the primary decision-makers in their homes…She is starting businesses, increasingly educated and young with a rising income.” The National Center for Education Statistics says Latinx students enrolling in undergraduate studies increased by 148 percent between 2000 and 2018, from 1.4 million to 3.4 million students with the majority of degrees earned by women.
Despite the “Latina Ascent,” the wage gap persists at higher education levels. The Sheryl Sandberg backed Leanin.org shows that Latinas without a high school diploma earn $457 weekly compared to the $612 a white man makes. Latinas with a master’s degree and higher earn $1,158 weekly compared to the $1,836 a white man makes.
Across all industries, Latinas are entering at higher numbers, earning more degrees, starting new businesses, and doing everything possible to obtain better pay.
“The work that has to be done to decrease this gap has always been left in the hands of the Latinas ourselves,” Velez said. “We need to be able to find allies that are holding that responsibility close to their heart and have the influential leaders that can activate growth in wages and close the gaps.”
According to a 2015 study by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Latinxs are the largest racial minority in the nation. One in five women in the U.S. is Latina and will make up nearly one-third of the country’s female population by 2060. Latinx consumers account for $1.5 trillion in buying power.
So imagine what Latinas could accomplish if they made the money they deserved and the buying power doubled or even tripled?
“I choose to see my Latinidad as an advantage,” Velez said. “I speak different languages, I was raised in a multicultural environment, I’ve taken the best of both of my Colombian-American worlds and transformed it into the uniqueness that I can bring to any table. When you honor, respect, and value the worth of your heritage and background, the disrespect “te resbala” and motivates you to keep going forward.”