Opinion: It's Latina Equal Pay Day, and these numbers are shocking

Dec. 8 is Latina Equal Pay Day. While it may be the last of several annual equal pay days throughout the year that commemorate wage gaps that exist for women, Latina Equal Pay Day highlights the approximate day Latinas must work into the new year to make what White non-Hispanic men had made by the end of the previous year. What this means is the average Latina would have to work all of 2021 and nearly all of 2022 just to earn what the typical White, non-Hispanic man earned in 2021 alone.

As an Asian American and a Latina, we represent the populations of women with the smallest and largest pay gaps ― and we’re calling on business leaders and policymakers to eliminate the pay gap for all women.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the average woman working full-time, year-round is typically paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart. When accounting for race and ethnicity, Asian American and Pacific Islander women typically make 95 cents to the male dollar, non-Hispanic White women make 79 cents, Black women make 64 cents and both Native American women and Latinas make 57 cents. These already dismal numbers hide an even more sobering reality: when the data includes part-time and part-year workers, Latinas are paid just 49 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Sabala Mandava
Sabala Mandava
Sonya Hernandez
Sonya Hernandez

This disparity is as astonishing as it is unacceptable. One’s gender, race and ethnicity should not determine how much one earns for their work. Sectors dominated by women and especially Latinas ― essential and skilled jobs such as caregiving and domestic work ― should not remain underpaid simply because those jobs are viewed as “women’s work.” Latinas and women in all sectors deserve to be given raises and promoted through the ranks at the same rates as their male counterparts. Wages should not inevitably be minimal just because a job is part-time or part-year.

In her first term, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer worked with the Legislature and other partners to develop and amplify initiatives that help more people move into higher-paying jobs and to remain in the workforce regardless of whether full-time or part-time. Free and low-cost adult education provides opportunities for adults to earn high school credentials, improve math, reading and writing skills, and expand their knowledge of the English language.

The Michigan Reconnect program ― providing tuition-free community college for Michiganders age 25 and older ― opens doors for women, in particular, to pursue associate degrees or skills certificates for in-demand jobs with higher wages. More families are now eligible for free or low-cost child care thanks to the expansion of Michigan’s Child Development and Care program. Those not eligible for the child care subsidy can potentially find assistance through MI Tri-Share Child Care, an innovative, bipartisan program that shares the cost of an employee's child care equally among the employer, the employee and the State of Michigan — reducing a family’s child care expenses by two-thirds.

These are incredible advancements, but there are more steps that employers, business leaders and policymakers can take to reduce pay gaps and eliminate pay discrimination. Employers can include pay ranges in their job listings and stop asking for an applicant’s salary history ― as Whitmer directed the state to do ― because it often perpetuates pay disparities. Employers can also participate in Michigan’s Registered Apprenticeship program, which combines classroom studies with extensive supervised on-the-job training, as a way to attract and retain women workers. Business leaders can increase the number of Latinas and other women in decision-making positions within executive leadership, in corporate C-suites and on corporate boards. Policymakers can strengthen protections for low-wage and part-time workers, and pass the package of pay equity bills currently before the Michigan Legislature.

In the meantime, we can all strive to change our own workplace cultures to welcome the diversity of leadership, experience and expertise that comes with the greater representation and participation of women.

Stock photo.
Stock photo.

If you believe your employer is in violation of current wage or fringe benefits laws, including paid medical leave, contact Michigan’s Wage and Hour Division at michigan.gov/wagehour.

Dr. Sabala Mandava is Vice Chair of Radiology at Henry Ford Health and Chair of the Michigan Women’s Commission.

Sonya Hernandez is an Educator and Vice Chair of the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Opinion: On Latina Equal Pay Day, these wage numbers are shocking