Another Equal Pay Day has come and gone, but for Latinas, the benefits of the Equal Pay Act seems to have passed them by. In 1963, Kennedy signed in law the Equal Pay Act which prohibited gender discrimination in wages. At its signing women made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Although, some small gains have been made, today, women earn 77 cents to men’s dollar, but Latinas only earn 57 cents. Do we need another piece of legislation or can we as a society make a bigger impact in our Latino community?
While only sixty-four percent of Latinas have a high school diploma, of those, only twenty percent of them complete college, with only ten percent holding a bachelor’s degree, according to the US Census. Often, this small percentage of Latina graduates find themselves alone, trying to navigating through the politics of corporate America.
A college degree helps open doors, but it does not prepare us for negotiating a salary, benefits, or job title. After forty years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act, a college degree doesn’t seem to have helped close the pay gap.
The missing ingredient for many Latinas is the mentorship by fellow women and Latinas who have made it to leadership positions in the business world. Life-long mentorship by other women helps provide insights on how to negotiate salary, understand work politics, and how to face this critical economy on all aspects of our life whether its financial literacy, purchasing a first home, or starting a business.
Since 2005, our Latino families have lost sixty-six percent of their household wealth and have been at the forefront of this foreclosure crisis. While national unemployment is at 8.2 percent, it’s 10.3 percent for Latinos, and the underemployment rate has hit as high as 22 percent.
A good piece of news, the number of Latinos age 18-24 attending college in the United States increased by 24 percent over a one-year period, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. This entrance spike represents 1.8 million Latinos enrolled in college.
For our Latinas graduating from college, entering the business world, or starting their own business, it’s imperative that they seek out successful women for mentorship. For those women who are in positions of leadership, they too need to invest time in helping mentor our future Latina leaders. This is the only way that we can begin to put a significant dent in the wage disparity that currently exists in our community.
Miryam Mora Barajas currently serves as the deputy finance director & Spanish spokesperson to the California Republican Party. She was the executive director to Donate Life California, the largest donor registry in the nation. She served as the Western Regional Coalition Director for John McCain’s presidential campaign. She still works as a consultant to start-up non-profits and serves as a political media analyst.[Photo by mjamesno ]