Gender pay gap hits Latina women hard

Legal and legislative efforts are being made to stem wage chasm

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what white men earned in the previous year. Today’s marking of that ignoble milestone means women must work an extra three months – all of last year plus the first three months of 2019 – to catch up with last year’s earnings for white men. 

But even more glaring gaps exist by race. The largest such chasm in the state is for Latina women, who must work until November 1 to reach the earnings level of white men, according to the state’s Office of Economic EmpowermentLatina women in the state earn just 51 cents for every dollar that white men earn. The Bay State figure is even less than the national average for Latina women, which was reported last November to be 53 cents on the dollar 

Equal Pay Day was started by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996 to highlight the gap between men and women’s wages.  

For white women, the figure is 83 cents on the dollar. The comparable figures are 64 cents for Native American women, 59 cents for AfricanAmerican women. Asian women, on average, make 84 cents on the dollar compared with white men 

Women are paid less than men at every comparable level of education, and in almost every occupation, according to previous reports from the Economic Policy Institute.  

Some efforts exist to rectify this. On July 1, 2018, an updated equal pay law went into effect in Massachusetts to ensure comparable pay for comparable workThis new law clarifies what qualifies as unlawful wage discrimination and adds new protections to the already existing Massachusetts Equal Pay Act.  

An employer who violates the wage law is generally liable for twice the amount of the unpaid wages owed to the affected employee plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.  

The law provides a defense against claims for any employer who, within the previous three years and before an action is filed, has conducted a good faith, reasonable self-evaluation of its pay practices. 

Under the equal pay actit’s illegal for employers to prohibit employees from disclosing or discussing their wages. They also can’t seek the salary or wage history of a prospective employee before making an offer that includes compensation.  

Attorney General Maura Healey posted a Twitter video on Tuesday outlining last year’s changes to the law and encouraged women facing discrimination to file a civil rights complaint.  

Further steps are being taken on behalf of women in top-tier leadership roles in their industries. State RepLiz Malia recently introduced the Massachusetts Pay Transparency and Pipeline Advancement Actwhich would require organizations with more than 100 employees to report the gender and race of employees holding specific management titles. Under the

 bill, the state’s Office of Labor and Workforce Development would make this data available to the public.  

The National Partnership for Women and Families lists Massachusetts as the 13th best state or district for gender wage gapsThe income lost to gender pay disparities could pay for a lot of crucial needs, especially for women who are the head of their households, according to a new report from the organization.  

If the annual gender wage gap were eliminated, it said, a working woman in the US would have, on average, enough money for more than 13 additional months of childcare; an additional year of tuition and fees at a four-year public university; more than 10 additional months of rent; or enough money to pay off student loan debt in just under three years.  

Some 15 million family households in the US are headed by women. About 81 percent of black mothers are the sole breadwinners in their families, as are 53 percent of Latina mothers. 

Doris Landaverde is a janitor at Harvard University and an immigrant from El Salvador. She credited her ability to make equal wages in the male-dominated profession to her union, 32BJ SEIU 

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

We get the same wages as men, and we are able to do the same things men do on the job,” said Landaverde, who has worked at Harvard since 2006. “I don’t feel discriminated against.”  

She worked at a manufacturing plant in the state when she first moved to the US in 2000, and the situation was far different. Landaverde said she was paid less men doing similar work, forcing her to work two full-time jobs at $6.00 an hour to pay rent.