Closing The Gap

Latinas earn $0.55 for every dollar paid to White men, a pay gap that has barely moved in 30 years

Alistair Berg | DigitalVision | Getty Images

This year, Latina Equal Pay Day falls on Oct. 29, marking how far into the new year Latinas have to work to earn the same pay white, non-Hispanic men earned the previous year.

When translated into a dollar amount, Latinas today earn, on average, just $0.55 for every dollar earned by White men, leaving them with a pay gap that surpasses that of women in all other racial groups. Over the course of a 40-year career, it's estimated that Latinas stand to lose $1,163,920 due to the wage gap, according to data from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). Assuming that a Latina and her White male counterpart both start working at age 20, NWLC estimates that due to this wage gap a Latina will have to work until she's 92 to earn what her While male peer earned by 60.

The ongoing pay disparity that Latinas face is one that has barely budged within the last 30 years, according to NWLC. In 1989, Latinas were paid just $0.52 for every dollar paid to White men. This means, that the Latina pay gap has only narrowed by a penny every decade since.

Adult Hispanic woman CEO in a conference meeting room alone. 
Shannon Fagan | Taxi | Getty Images

"I think there's a lot of performative wokeness happening," Jasmine Tucker, NWLC's director of research, tells CNBC Make It about the Latina pay gap and why it's barely improved over the last 30 years. "I think people are saying they care about this issue, but they're not actually taking steps to address this issue."

She says that while more companies are publishing reports to try and prove that they pay people in the same job fairly, it's important to examine who these companies are hiring and what positions they're hiring certain people for.

"I feel like there's a lot of gaming the system in that way," Tucker adds. "[Companies] are like, 'Oh well, we're paying them the minimum wage. We're paying them a living wage.'" But, she says, "when you're doing the bare minimum, and then you're also faster promoting White men into C-suite positions" then you're not really making progress.

Today, for every 100 men promoted to manager, just 71 Latinas are promoted at the same rate, according to Lean In and McKinsey & Company's 2020 "Women in the Workplace" report. The study describes this inequity as "the broken rung," in which Latinas face barriers around sexism and racism that often block them from being promoted to manager.

Tucker explains that the longstanding pay disparities Latinas face have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, with nearly three in 10 Latinas working a front-line job today, but still being underpaid for their work.

For example, Latinas make up just 7% of the overall workforce, but they account for 22% of child-care workers. On average, Latinas working full-time, year-round in child care earn just $0.88 for every dollar earned by White men in the same occupation, according to NWLC. Similarly, Latinas working as cashiers and retail salespeople earn just $0.76 for every dollar paid to a White man in the same role and Latinas working as janitors, maids and housekeepers earn just $0.61 for every dollar paid to a White man in the same role.

"We're depending on their labor like never before, but we're not paying them what we owe them," says Tucker, while adding that many of the jobs Latinas are overrepresented in are also jobs that have experienced major layoffs during the pandemic. In September, nearly one in nine Latinas were unemployed. But Tucker argues that this number is likely higher when you account for the thousands of women who've been forced to leave the labor force because of the overwhelming demands to work, teach and parent at the same time.

"I think there's really a lot of suffering happening here because Latinas were already struggling to make ends meet before this crisis," Tucker says. She adds that "if they had the [financial] cushion that some of their White male peers had," then they would be in a much better position to weather the storms of today's economy.

To ensure that Latinas aren't left behind as economic recovery begins, Tucker says it's important that the government focuses on access to affordable child care so that Latinas, and women overall, aren't forced to leave the labor force. Additionally, she says, with the ongoing pay imbalance it's critical that Latinas, especially those in low-wage jobs, join unions. Though less than 11% of the workforce belongs to unions, NWLC data shows that the overall gender wage gap for union members is 53% smaller than the wage gap for non-union members.

"We have to shift back to where workers can start to get some power and they can bargain together," Tucker says. "I think that's just such a huge important resource that workers should have and we've seen how the wage gap is smaller."

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