Latinas have long fought for equal rights in this country, making incredible strides that — albeit are threatened under this current administration — benefit all of our lives today. But there remains incredible battles ahead of us, including the long fight for equal pay. The issue is pronounced in California, where a new study shows that Latinas make 42 cents to a white man’s dollar, compared to the national disparity of 54 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Latino men.
Last month, Mount Saint Mary’s University released its Report On The Status of Women and Girls in California, which highlights the areas women are succeeding in and where we have more work to do. Although the report shows progress in some areas, Latinas continue to struggle.
Latinas make up 38 percent of all women in “The Golden State,” the highest population of all races and ethnicities. Of them, less than half — 35 percent — are employed, and as many as 21 percent live at the federal poverty level. This is important, especially considering that 40 percent of Latina mothers bring in 40 percent or more of their family’s income, meaning their households rely on their wage to survive. As a result, at least 1.1 million Latina-headed family households live in poverty.
My parents always encouraged me to obtain an education. Actually, they left me no choice. “Ponte las pillas para que no te mates como yo,” they’d tell me as I jumped off my dad’s pick-up truck. My mother and my father were forced to drop out of school to help their families, a common story for many Latinxs. That’s why they hoped their kids would become successful and have a better life than they did. But, as the study shows, even educated Latinas are impacted by the state’s gender wage gap.
The median annual earning for California Latinas is $31,122. This is highly discouraging for those of us paying off $40,000 tuitions for our four-year college educations, which about 13 percent of Latinas in the state have.
Although we continue to work hard to sustain our lives and that of our parents, we constantly find ourselves in the same place because of these economic disparities. And for those of us who do start families of our own, the wage gap, on average, only widens.
“Childbearing and child-raising is a driving force in the widening of the pay gap for American women in the 25-34 age range,” the report notes. When women return to work after giving birth, they often also need to secure money to pay for childcare. When they can’t afford this and need to spend more time at home, they are more likely to be overlooked for promotions and other job opportunities.
On Equal Pay Day — a symbolic day showing how far into the year women must work in order to earn what their white, male counterparts do — though it actually takes much longer for Latinas — we are dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap, and we want you to join us.
We need to be better allies to one another as well as provide support and mentorship to women who look up to us as leaders, role models and mentors. Together, we can accomplish anything. ¡Estamos juntas en esta lucha!