13 Latina Finance Experts & Activists Share Advice on How To Combat Pay Inequity

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.
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Latinas have to work for nearly 22 months to make what white men make in a year, typically earning only 55 cents to every dollar a white, non-Latino man earns. For Black women the gap is 63 cents, and for Native American women it’s 58 cents while white women make about 79 cents. A 2016 report from the Insitute for Women’s Policy Research found that if current trends continue, Latinas will wait 232 years for equal pay and Black women will wait 108 years.

The numbers speak for themselves and in order to make a change it’s vital to raise awareness about this inequality in the workplace. It’s also worth noting that Latinas ask for promotions and raises at similar rates to white men yet for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 71 Latinas are, according to a 2020 report on women in the workplace from Lean In. This inequity starts at the first step up to manager, and is known as “the broken rung” which keeps Latinas from moving up at all. This indicates that pay equity is the end goal but the hurdles to reach that go beyond money but into deeper issues involving the historic limitations Latinas have faced in the workplace.

We spoke with Latina thought leaders and financial experts who shared their thoughts on what actions we can take to close the gap and begin to tear down these systemic barriers.

*Note: These responses have been edited and condensed.*

Jessica Valentina (Host of the Latina Business Coach Podcast & CEO of Latina Business Academy)

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“Latinas often go into entrepreneurship because they want to charge their worth, but they end up undercharging and discounting their services. Why? Because they have not done enough market research to see what other non-Hispanic businesses are charging nor do they know how to calculate the value they bring to the table and what their time is worth and THAT is the real problem. Latina business owners should price according to the value they offer and their business goals. If you are a Latina business owner, practice saying the price so you can charge and say your price confidently. Finally, when you do say it clearly and firmly, shut up. Don’t explain why don’t justify. That’s the price. Period. If we all level up together, decide to charge our worth together, show up more united and confident together, that’s how we will bridge the gap. Juntas.” – Jessica Valentina – host of the Latina Business Coach podcast & CEO of Latina Business Academy

Mónica Ramirez (Founder of Justice for Migrant Women)

“Latina Equal Pay Day is something we observe every year in the hopes that we continue to build awareness and to make people understand that that is simply unacceptable. Latinas certainly did not work half as hard this year, last year, or any other year for that matter. So why should we only get paid half as much? I believe our greatest strength comes from organizing together and,most importantly, investing in Latinas. We also need important policy changes that would address some of the issues that impact a Latinas’ ability to earn equitably during her career, like ensuring that all Latinas are protected by basic employment protections, increasing the minimum wage, paid sick and family leave. Employers must also take responsibility to ensure that they are addressing bias that too often negatively impacts Latina workers.” – Mónica Ramirez, founder of Justice for Migrant Women

Angelica Ogando (Founder of the Enriched Mind LLC & Co-Founder of Yoshida Academy)

“Latinas make 54 cents to the dollar and have to work on average 8 hours to 12 hours more. This impacts our ability to access good health, pay for family needs, continue our education, and even launch a successful business. As a Business & Life Coach, I understand that the only way I can bring awareness to the pay disparity is by empowering my Latina clients to demand their worth. We constantly undervalue ourselves because we do not understand our “Market Value”. It is your duty to take accountability for your skills, your strengths, and your accomplishments. This list will help you research exactly what people with those particular skills are getting paid. By the time you are ready to negotiate you will know and be confident in exactly what your worth is.” – Angelica Ogando, Founder of The Enriched Mind LLC & Co-Founder of Yoshida Academy

Kara Pérez (Founder of Bravely Go)

“Latinas don’t ‘make the least’–we are PAID the least. The ownership here is key because when we say that Latinas earn the least, it makes it seem like we can just negotiate our way out of racism and sexism. But we can’t. Latinas are up against systemic problems and it’s really on companies to change their hiring practices, workplace bias, and to establish fair and equal pay standards for pay inequality to go away.

Statistically, Latinas are more likely to work jobs that pay hourly, rather than salaried positions. So something an individual can do is to apply for jobs that are salaried and come with benefits like a retirement account. Latinx people in the US are less likely to have access to workplace investment accounts than any other race of people, so simply getting access to that via a job is a way to change one person’s whole financial life.

Another actionable tip is that when it comes time to negotiate, understand that you can negotiate for MORE than money. You can ask for more paid time off, or education reimbursement, or a childcare stipend. Dollars are important but if you’re facing a wall with money, how else can you get your company to improve your life and finances?” – Kara Pérez, Founder of Bravely Go, focused on feminist economics & inclusive personal finance

Katia Chesnok (Financial expert & Creator of Economikat)

“Latina wage gap is a subject very close to my heart; this has happened to family members, friends, and myself. I have been the victim of an unfair wage. I have been paid much less than my non-Hispanic white male colleague when we both had the same position in the company. This wage gap means more economic instability, less money to pay rent, food, education, more debt among other problems that 53% of breadwinner Latina mothers have to face every single day. Pay attention and ask candidates running for office about their plan to close the gender and racial pay gap.Join the workers’ unions, on average, employees that join one have 28% higher wages. New policies around transparency within organizations and salary history bans in applications have to be implemented. Banning salary history prevents workers from carrying around previous lower wages when they start new jobs.” – Katia Chesnok, Financial expert and creator of Economikat

Xochitl Oseguera (Vice President of Mamás Con Poder)

“Over a 40-year career, Latinas typically lose more than $1 million because of unfair pay. That is childcare we can’t afford, groceries we can’t buy, school supplies and warm coats our children go without, and rent payments we struggle to make – or are forced to miss. It is unacceptable that Latinas have to work for nearly 23 months to match the wages paid to white men in just one year. We need policies that address the root causes of the Latina wage gap, which include structural racism and sexism, and that boost economic security for our families and communities. MomsRising and its Latinx community, MamasConPoder, are working around the clock to advocate for policies, like paid family and medical leave and affordable childcare, that will help put an end to this wage gap. The House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act last year, but it is stalled in the U.S. Senate’s legislative graveyard. This is why it’s so important for all of us to be equal pay voters on or before November 3rd. Economic justice is always on the ballot.” – Xochitl Oseguera, Vice President of Mamás Con Poder

Beatriz Acevedo, CEO & Co-Founder of Suma Wealth

“Latinas, in particular, are in a somewhat contradictory position. On the one hand, we earn just 55¢ for every white male dollar. We’re overlooked and underestimated. On the other, we have the exact combination of traits needed to power the U.S. from the current economic crisis and into a more equitable, more prosperous future for all Americans. With the right mix of resources and financial wellness education, Latinas will become the recovery engine for the U.S. economy and it’s my goal to ensure this happens. Empowering Latinas economically is how we’re going to grow the economy more quickly and build a new way forward. Investments in these top two categories will produce large returns for all Americans: 1) Education–Latina-specific mentoring and education on financial wellness; 2) Resources–Microloans and grants for Latina business.” – Beatriz Acevedo, CEO & Co-Founder of Suma Wealth

Ramona Ortega (CEO & Founder of My Money My Future)

“There are many reasons Latinas make a disproportionately lower wage than any other group of woman-and most of those reasons come down to structural discrimination. Latinas often sit at the intersection of gender, race, class, and immigration status–compounding the barriers we often face in the workplace.

Additionally, there are cultural factors that impact us, for example Latinas are often deferential to authority or expected to accept our role and be grateful for our positions. While these nuances are not necessarily negative, in the context of the modern workplace where one is rewarded for being confident, boastful, and even arrogant, our cultural differences can hurt our growth and earning potential, particularly when it comes to negotiating.

Know your worth (literally and figuratively), do your research and be prepared, [and] bring your receipts to the table. Remember negotiation is simply a business proposition and it comes down to value creation and the bottom line. It is easy to take salary negotiation personally but we should think of it as something that has to be practiced in order to become better. It really is a muscle that is strengthened the more you use it.

Given that Latinas make almost 50% less than the average man, we need to consider that when we calculate our top line number and make sure to study negotiation tactics and lastly make sure we have options. Having optionality in your back pocket will empower you to walk away if you need to.” – Ramona Ortega, CEO & founder of My Money My Future

Natalie Torres-Haddad (Financial Literacy Advocate & Host of Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes Podcast)

Many still don’t believe that women of color earn much less than their white male counterparts. This doesn’t just impact the working Latina, but it contributes to the negative impact on the entire family and ultimately the community they serve. This means less buying power, less money to invest in their retirement, education, investments, and less financial opportunities for their families, such as health care and higher education. If we look at the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that passed in 2009 to help strengthen the worker protections against pay discrimination, that means many corporations and organizations are slowly implementing these changes.

Secondly, to take action we need help from our allies, from our mentors, male colleagues, universities, and major corporations to not only advocate the need for equal pay, but to educate and inform those who still don’t believe in the gender wage gap. When companies create a more transparent company culture when it comes to salary pay, the less likely we will see discrimination made against women. Accountability needs to come from all allies, not just from those it directly affects Latinx.” – Natalie Torres-Haddad, financial literacy advocate & host of Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes podcast

Lyanne Alfaro (Creator of Newsletter/Podcast Moneda Moves)

“Until the overwhelmingly lowest-paid group doesn’t get equal pay, it does not exist.

What you need to know about Latinas is that equipped with the right tools, we are an unstoppable force. So what can we do? We need to reach out to these communities and the next generation of working Latinas to ensure they have the knowledge and tools needed to enter the workforce. We need to lean into mentoring and sponsorship to help them level up. At an institutional level, we need to hold companies accountable for not only hiring and retaining Latinas but promoting them into positions of leadership to bring others with them.

For the new entrepreneurs, many of which are suffering amid COVID-19, we need to open venues to capital so that Latina business can survive, and eventually scale.” – Lyanne Alfaro, creator of newsletter/podcast Moneda Moves

Jully-Alma Taveras (Founder of Investing Latina)

“Latinas identify as white, Black, Afro-Latina, and indigenous among other identities, this means that racial inequities undoubtedly affect them in the corporate workplace that is plagued with racial discrimination and wage injustices. The struggle of making less than any other group has pushed Latinas to become more entrepreneurial, which also comes with its own set of money challenges like taking on debt and difficulty investing for retirement.

Engaging with Gen-Z Latinas that are entering the workforce will be very important in closing the wage gap we are experiencing. It’s also important to remind women of all generations that your previous salary does not have to determine your ask at a new job. Instead of using what you earned as a benchmark, use statistics on the role, combined with your unique value to set the price for your time. When it comes to investing, we are very behind, with lower participation rates in company-sponsored retirement accounts and lower contributions overall. Investing is what will help Latinas close the wealth gap that exists, and investing will also empower us to recognize our worth and to demand it–every single day.” – Jully-Alma Taveras, founder of Investing Latina

Amanda Abella (Personal Finance and Business Expert, Host of the Make Money Your Honey Podcast)

“While there is a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to equal pay for Latinas, I’m a big believer in improving what you CAN control immediately. One thing we can do is actually ASK for more money. Before I was running my own business, I was a recruiter. The men wouldn’t think twice about negotiating a higher salary and the women barely ever negotiated. We can start changing this by learning how to ask for more money and how to negotiate. You can also learn highly compensated skillsets like sales–which literally allows you to write your own check–or copywriting. Asking for money and improving valuable skills is something we have complete control over.” – Amanda Abella, Personal Finance and Business Expert, host of The Make Money Your Honey podcast

Athena Lent (CEO of Money Smart Latina)

“Although rooted in systematic racism practices, there is still no excuse for the pay inequity Latinas still face today. Latinas are the head of their families care, and their earning potential overall unfortunately reflects it. Growing up in a multigenerational household myself, I realized the responsibility of taking care of my grandparents went to my mom early on. My mom was so busy taking care of everyone, she would occasionally work part-time but couldn’t handle much more and would leave the workforce only to re-enter it again later. We need to learn about the Family and Medical Leave Act by the US Department of Labor. Although it is unpaid, you are eligible to take up to twelve weeks a year to take care of a family member without fear of losing your job. By utilizing this law, you can take time off without worrying about your job security or any progress you have had in your career.” – Athena Lent, CEO of Money Smart Latina