Equal pay- Is it my fault? Or theirs?

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November 2nd marks Equal Pay Day for Latinas.  I know, I know, you are thinking, “No, we had this discussion back in April, for Women’s Equal Pay – we already know about this. Yeah, yeah, women make $0.80 on the dollar.” 

Correct, but April acknowledges equal pay for ALL women.  Then, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in July, Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day in September and Latina’s are DEAD LAST, because, on average, Latinas make 54 cents for every dollar white man make.  Meaning it takes almost two years for Latina women to earn what white men earned in the single prior year. 

Your “real” equal pay day depends on your race.   

It takes White women 16 months to earn what a man earns in 12. Black women, 19 months; Native American women 20 months…and Latinas 22 months.  “That’s like ripping a dollar bill in half—or like working an entire week, but only getting paid through Wednesday afternoon. At this rate, to earn what white men earn by age 60, Latina women would have to work until they’re 90.”  Actress and activist Eva Longoria wrote for Fortune magazine. 

Considering some recent events, I started to ponder if this was a function of us (as Latinas) not doing enough for ourselves or if the world was to blame.  Or a combination of both? 

During the Executive Alliance Women of Excellence Luncheon, I was awed by the remarks from Dr Mae Jamison, an American engineer, physician and NASA astronaut, who became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.  She clearly carved her own path.  She created her own opportunities and took nothing less than what she wanted.  She is fearless, fierce and unapologetic.  

She recounted that success is not just about being in the room, getting a seat at the table, but, most importantly about having the courage to CONTRIBUTE. Avoiding Ambient Belonging– where we do the things that the guys want to do vs asserting the things that matter to us.  Also, avoiding Impostor Syndrome – where women feel they don’t belong in the room even after arriving, stemming from lower self-esteem, discouragement and personal sabotaging. 

When analyzing Google search trends from parents, she cites, frequent questions surface, such as “Is my son a genius?” For daughters? “Is my daughter fat? Is my daughter ugly?” This is FRAMING, where the narrative is framed in such a way as to minimize or demean our worth and contributions.  For instance, the term “Genius” is rarely used to describe a woman.  Maybe Brilliant or Clever, but never Genius.  

And lastly, Dr. Jamison chooses to create her own path by being innovative, and not just innovative, but AUDACIOUSLY INNOVATIVE.  She is leading the team that will figure out interstellar travel – Read that again: she is figuring out how we will travel through space! She knows no boundaries.   

But not everyone is Dr. Jamison, who is internally motivated to excel while having the “right combination” of circumstances to succeed. 

Some paths are dictated by the environment. And some women simply have too many external challenges to overcome to advance and create opportunities to improve their situation and thereby their pay.  

These external challenges need to be addressed with advocacy and legislation as well as personal awareness and accountability.  If you are a hiring manager, or have any influence over compensation, hiring and advancement practices for your organization, assess yourself and biases.  How do you determine starting salaries for women and men? For people of color? Are you fair and merit-based? Are you aware that culturally, Latinas are more reserved and tend to not negotiate and ask for their worth (don’t worry, I’m addressing that issue separately!)?  

Also, support the passing of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was first introduced in 1997 and STILL HAS NOT BEEN PASSED!! 

This is not just about equity for Latinas, but women in general.  And a reminder that solving the world’s most confounding issues requires diversity of thought, experience and backgrounds, manifested through innovative geniuses like Dr. Jamison, who undoubtedly will get us to Mars. 

Amigos- Be the change you wish to see. 


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