We all know that on average, women workers earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by the average man. However, that mostly accounts for white women. What a lot of people don’t know is that only accounts for white women. When you start calculating the wage disparity for women of color, the number starts dropping dramatically.
Black women make 64 cents on the dollar, and Latinas earn the least of all, only bringing homw 54 cents on the dollar. That’s a figure that persists despite the fact that the number of Latinas receiving a higher education and owning their own businesses has seen a significant increase. If you’re confused about why you’re working just as hard and getting half as much, here’s a look at some of the reasons.
There’s a gap in the education system that’s trickling over to equal pay.
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Latinos are less likely to enroll in four-year universities than white students, most commonly as a result of the high cost of higher education. On average, tuition at four-year schools are two times more expensive than at community colleges. Delve deeper into why Latinos generally avoid incurring these extra expenses and you’ll see it’s because they are more prone to receiving lower financial aid rewards and are more resistant to taking on debt. But what happens when Latinas do go for that college degree?
As a general rule, a person’s salary increases for every year of education and degree they add on to their slate. That’s for both men and women. But if lapping up college, Masters and PhDs degrees was all it really took to raise your salary, that would be one thing.
However, for every academic level women and men achieve, women’s earnings still remain lower than men’s. In fact, the gender pay gap can be even greater in careers where women and men obtain the same higher levels of education. Education can improve a Latina’s earning prospects, but it still can’t erase the gender, race and ethnicity factors that affect wage imbalance.
Latinas are also more likely to take a timeout from the workforce to work as caregivers.
Today’s women still continue to take on more of the caregiving responsibilities in their households and a huge part of this stems from the fact that men aren’t afforded paternity leave. The Family Medical Leave Act currently gives women 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave. This means women are pushed into taking time off over their husbands, and aren’t paid for it.
Not only that, but just 15% of white people live in multigenerational households in the U.S., meaning a home where a parent, grandparent or other family member also live. For white women, caregiver responsibilities are generally contained to their children. The rate of Latinos in multigenerational households jumps to 25%, according to 2014 census data. For Latinas living in multigenerational families, however, caregiver responsibilities fall to them for not just their children, but also other family members living in the home. This means the odds of Latinas needing to take time off of work increases, particularly by the number of children and elders in their households.
Nearly a third of Latinas working in the U.S. are part of the service industry, which is known for its flat and low wages.
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The service industry claims almost a third of Latinas as workers. At the same time, Latinas are largely under-represented in jobs that are higher paying. Fields that have been traditionally dominated by men, such as construction, engineering and science, are working to close the gap. Still, with fewer Latinas achieving higher education than white women and men, the odds of getting into these fields while obtaining equal pay are stacked against them.
On top of all of that, there’s a thing called pay secrecy.
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There’s a cultural taboo that hinders us from talking about salaries and spotting wage disparities. Even more effective at keeping women from becoming aware of how little they are getting paid are actual work policies that prevent us from asking. Pay secrecy has been illegal under the National Labor Relations Act since 1935. Still there are limitations to the law that keep workers tightlipped about how much they’re making.
Supervisors, independent contractors and agricultural laborers don’t fall under the the “employees” who are protected under the law. This means that they’re often pushed into signing contracts that keep them from finding out how much their co-workers earn. Even with various government efforts to block employers from keep their workers quiet, many women still find themselves discourage from discussing their salaries. As such, Latinas are often prevented from discovering how their salaries compare to others. And as a result, the existence of the wage gap continues to be perpetuated.
Latinas have a long road to haul before the gender wage gap finally closes. At our current rate, the wage equality gap will close around the year 2152. That’s 136 years from now. If that math looks funny to you, remember there’s always a right time to go and get yours. Help close the gap by talking to your male co-workers about their wages, demanding raises when you know you deserve them and speaking up when you know your work is being undervalued.