Until all women have equal pay, let’s mark Equal Pay Day for all
November 2nd is Latina Equal Pay Day, the date when the average Latina is projected to finally earn what a white, non-Hispanic male did last year. To state it even more clearly — it takes Latinas 22 months to make what a white man does in 12. That massive discrepancy is due to a persistent wage gap that leaves Latinas earning an average of 54 cents for every dollar made by white men.
This disparity cannot be explained away by the flimsy arguments often used by wage gap deniers, who frequently lay the blame for unequal pay at the feet of women. Latinas are just as hardworking, enterprising, and ambitious as white men and anyone else. And though they are heavily represented in the types of jobs we all depend on, like low-paid and undervalued service and hospitality positions, like all women, Latinas are also more likely to be paid less than men in white collar jobs Societal and systemic issues like gender discrimination, racism, and a lack of pay transparency means these women are the hardest hit by pay inequity.
Nearly three million family households in the United States are headed by Latinas, and the consequences of unequal pay are far reaching for them and their families. If the wage gap were eliminated, the average Latina working full time, year-round would have enough money for more than three additional years of child care, the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college, and 3.7 years’ worth of food for her family. Compare that to today, where 38 percent of all Latina-headed family households live below the poverty level.
You may have seen other articles talking about equal pay in the past few months. Just recently, September 25th was marked as the day when Native women would catch up to the earnings of white men from last year. In July, Serena Williams wrote a heartfelt piece to raise awareness of the pay gap for black women, whose average earnings were calculated to gain parity with that of white men only after an additional 6 months of work. However, you are most likely to have seen news about the pay gap back in April of this year. The most widely acknowledged Equal Pay Day fell on April 4th, representing how long it takes women on average to make what a full time white male worker did in 2016.
The different symbolic days are emblematic of a disparity within the wage gap — and that is the gap among women themselves. Last year, the average earnings of all women taken together amounted to 80 percent of what white men in the U.S. made. That statistic is familiar to many, and it’s what was used to arrive at an Equal Pay Day more than 3 months into the year for women to make up the deficit in their pay.
But it’s clear that widely known number doesn’t tell the full story. When you separate the earnings of women of color from that of white women, it becomes apparent that the wage gap is even wider for the former. Black women make only 63 cents of each dollar made by white men. Native Women make only 58 cents. And for Latinas, the pay disparity is the widest of all.
Yet the narrative around eliminating the wage gap is largely ruled by numbers that would leave these women still trailing behind in earnings. Should we only close that 20 percent gap between men and women — which is based on the consolidated average of all women’s earnings — millions of Latinas, as well as black and Native Women, would still be left without equal pay.
As champions for equal pay, we should not and cannot be satisfied when only those women who are currently making 80 cents on a white male’s dollar achieve full parity. We won’t close the gender wage gap until all women are paid equally for their work.
When we acknowledge the varying experiences and realities of different types of women, we are able to create solutions that truly result in a better world for us all. So this November 2nd, as we underscore what the wage gap means for Latinas, we also pledge that until all women earn equal pay, all of us will keep fighting for it.