Closing The Gap

Eva Longoria on Latina Equal Pay Day: 'The stats are shocking—and we need to do better to help women'

Actress Eva Longoria
Cindy Ord | Getty Images

Today is Latina Equal Pay Day, a day that marks how much Latinas must work to earn the same amount their white male counterparts earn in just one year.

Let me be more specific: a Latina had to work all of 2018 and 11 months into 2019 to earn what her white male counterparts earned in 2018 alone.

Throughout the year, we mark a variety of Equal Pay Days: Asian-American Women's Equal Pay Day in March, all women's Equal Pay Day in April, African American Women's Equal Pay Day in July, and Native American Women's Equal Pay Day in September. But Latina Equal Pay Day comes dead last.

When I first wrote about this in 2017, Latina Equal Pay Day was on November 2nd. This year, it's on November 20th. Is it me, or does it feel like we're going backwards?

Latinas today make 54.5 cents for every dollar made by their by white male counterparts. That's 45.5% less than white men, and 31% less than white women. It persists even when you control for factors like occupation, education, experience, and location. And it persists despite the fact that investing in Latinas is one of the best things that we can do for the economy.

According to a national poll (which surveyed 5,960 adults ages 18 and up) in partnership with SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.Org, even though people know about the wage gap, very few understand how dire it really is. The stats are shocking: 68% of Americans are either unaware or underestimate the size of the pay gap between Latinas and white men, while 47% incorrectly believe that there is no gap between Latinas and white women.

The lack of awareness of the pay gap is frustrating, but misunderstandings about its causes are downright dangerous. Nearly 30% of Americans believe the pay gap exists in part because Latinas simply choose lower-paying jobs, implying that Latinas ourselves can be blamed for the gap, according to the study.

This presumption is utterly untrue. And the anti-immigrant rhetoric in our current political climate isn't helping. According to Pew Research, four in 10 Latinas have experienced overt discrimination in the past year. Some hateful examples include "being criticized for speaking Spanish" or "being told to go back to their home country."

Other types of discrimination are more subtle. The 2019 Women in the Workplace report from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company found that 73% of women have experienced microaggressions — or everyday discrimination — at work. One of the most common microaggressions experienced by Latinas is when colleagues are surprised by Latinas' language skills and other professional abilities.

If [working mothers] don't have someone to watch their children, they can't go into work. And yet in order to afford childcare, they have to go to work.

If you regularly experience situations where coworkers are surprised that you're able to do your job — just because you're Latina — it's going to erode your confidence until you feel no longer welcome in your workplace.

Unsurprisingly, SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.Org found that Latinas are well aware of the amount of adversity we face. At greater shares than Americans overall, Latinas recognize that "fewer Latinas are in leadership positions" as the top reason for the wage gap. We're also pretty clear about what we consider to be the second biggest reason: Sexism.

According to the poll, 74% of people who are aware of the gap think that the government should take steps to address it and 85% think companies should do more to close it. There are many ways that companies can empower Latinas in the workplace: Implementing salary-matching initiatives (like Salesforce did in 2015), mentorship programs, increased transparency around pay, and employee resource groups.

But among Latinas surveyed, the most frequently proposed solution to close the pay gap was support for working mothers. There's a vicious cycle at play for millions of working mothers: If they don't have someone to watch their children, they can't go into work. And yet in order to afford childcare, they have to go to work.

Forty-seven percent of Latinas are the primary wage earner in their households, and an additional 19% say they have to work to help make ends meet. We need to do more to support these women.

Some forward-thinking companies are already on it. Johnson & Johnson and Etsy offer generous parental leave and dependent care assistance programs, which empower employees to deduct daycare costs from their pre-tax paychecks and sometimes even offer reimbursements up to a certain amount.

If U.S. Latinos were our own country, we'd represent the third-fastest growing economy in the world, right after China and India.

Other organizations, like VMWare and LivingSocial, offer flexible work schedules so parents can work from home when their kids are sick or shift their schedules to pick them up from school. Nike and Patagonia offer free onsite childcare facilities. All of these are great options, and some of them don't cost the company a dime.

If companies can use these benefits to engage Latina workers, the upside is huge. Latinas are a massive, high-potential population that are key to the success of companies and our country's economy. Latina-owned businesses have created almost three million American jobs, and our community's collective GDP is close to $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. If U.S. Latinos were our own country, we'd represent the third-fastest growing economy in the world, right after China and India.

Elisabeth Jacobs, senior director at Equitable Growth, wrote, "Research increasingly suggests that the stability of the family as an economic unit is beneficial for both individual workers, as well as the broader U.S. economy."

And she's right: If we can bring ourselves to more even footing, then everyone — not just Latinas — would benefit. Creating programs that support working Latinas is in the best interest of the workforce, the companies we support, and the entire economy.

It's time to demand more for Latinas. Let's start compensating and supporting all employees fairly so we can stop making November a stark reminder of the barriers between Latinas and equality, and start focusing on what it really ought to be: a time for giving thanks for our families, our culture, our community, and our country.

Eva Longoria is a Golden Globe-nominated and SAG Award-winning actress, producer, director, philanthropist and Time's Up co-founder. In 2012, she created the Eva Longoria Foundation to help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship. Eva is also the CEO of the production company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment.

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