Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day: Closing the Wage Gap for those Earning the Least


By Gina Arias

The observance of Equal Pay Days in 2021 in the United States has been divided into various days throughout the year, for Asian-American and Pacific Islander Women (March 9th), Black Women (August 3rd) and Native Women (September 8th), amongst others. The observed date is selected based on how far into 2021 this group of women typically need to work to make what white non-Hispanic men made in 2020. And so today, October 21st, we have come to the last “Equal Pay Day” observance of the year, Latina Equal Pay Day. Latinas who work full time, year round typically earn only 57 cents for every dollar earned by white non-Hispanic men. As noted by Equal Pay Today, a campaign being led by a coalition of organizations to close the gender wage gap, “Latinas, typically, work longer than….everyone.”

Coupled with low wages, Latinas have also had higher unemployment rates compared to white women even before the start of the pandemic and, early in the pandemic, Latinas experienced the highest unemployment rate of all demographic groups. The pandemic only exacerbated this reality. A report released by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative in June, noted that Latinas dropped out of the workforce to a larger extent than any other demographic group during the first year of the pandemic. One of the main drivers of this exodus was the disproportionate share of unpaid caregiving work shouldered by Latinas that increased significantly with the closures of schools and day care settings.

The pandemic has laid bare the U.S. caregiving crisis in which Latinas are paying a tremendous price. Those who are further marginalized among Latinas are undoubtedly paying an even greater price, such as Latinas who are Black, transgender, or queer.

The disastrous state of our caregiving infrastructure in the United States necessitates clear policy prescriptions that center Black and Latinx women, who shoulder the lion’s share of paid and unpaid caregiving roles.

In addition to worsening economic inequities, the pandemic has also revealed some of the unjust conditions in our healthcare system, a system that is overwhelmingly powered by women, which make up about 80% of the entire healthcare workforce. While nurses, as the largest group of healthcare workers in the United States, are the backbone of the healthcare system, the growing lifeblood of the healthcare system are home health workers, 89% of whom are women and 27% Latinx. This is demonstrated by the yearly 17% increase in the number of people employed as home health workers. However, despite the immense growth in home health work, the value we, as a society, have placed on this work is not evident. The average salary of women in the home health work field is $22,000. That is almost $27,000 less than what is considered a livable wage for a family of three in Mississippi, the state with the lowest livable wage.

In order to help address the abysmal pay gap experienced by Latinas, it is crucial that bold steps be taken to address wage inequities in the low-paying job sector, such as home health work, where Latinas are overrepresented.

One such step would be the passage of the Build Back Better Act, which includes investing $400 billion in Home and Community-based Services. The Care Can’t Wait coalition notes that this investment could help to create over one million union-protected direct care jobs, expand access to home and community-based services, and support unpaid family caregivers, by helping those who chose to re-enter the labor force.

If Latinas are to move towards a future with greater economic stability, ensuring they rejoin the labor market will be key. Latinas are disproportionately responsible for family care obligations and more likely to stay at home than U.S. mothers of other backgrounds. Programs like paid family and medical leave, also proposed in the Build Back Better Act, would be a tremendous step in the right direction. Universal paid and family leave is long overdue in the United States, the only industrialized country in the world without it. A new analysis from TIME’S UP and economist Lenore Palladino from the University of Massachusetts Amherst posits that a national paid leave policy is essential to unlocking entrenched gender, racial, and economic disparities. These investments would have a monumental impact as they would benefit 7% of all employed Latina women in the U.S., according to a recent report from the Center for American Progress. Congress must ensure that the Build Back Better Plan is passed, fully invested in, and made permanent, if there is to be an equitable and inclusive recovery which includes those women currently at the bottom of the pay gap, Latinas.

However, we do not have to simply wait for government solutions. The private sector also has a role to play in closing the wage gap. We must do better to ensure that the pay gap is closed by making shifts in workplace culture and practices that support these efforts.

One of the ways both public and private institutions can [ensure the pay gap is closed] is by examining the pay gap at their institutions through an annual pay equity assessment.

Best practices guidelines on equity & inclusion state that when analyzing pay across lines of difference it’s important to analyze the median pay. Median pay is an unadjusted raw measure used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to assess not only equal pay but equal opportunity by factoring in how many women serve in high-ranking roles. For a median gender pay gap analysis, the median pay of women working full time versus men working full time is examined. In addition, institutions should be leveraging their diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) leaders who have the knowledge and skills to imagine fresh approaches to closing gender and racial pay gaps.

For more ways that you can help close the pay gap experienced by Latinas, see the Five Ways to Fight the Pay Gap on Latina Equal Pay Day from the 2019 TIME’S UP post. The actions noted there are still, unfortunately, relevant today. Also, stay tuned for the upcoming 3rd edition of our TIME’S UP Guide on Equity & Inclusion (to be released October 27th) for more information on how you can join the fight to end gender & racial pay gaps!

Get to Know Gina Arias

Gina Arias leads TIME’S UP’s Healthcare Industries, focusing on addressing issues related to safety, dignity, and equity in the healthcare workplace. She is a Spanish and French-speaking nurse and public health professional with more than 25 years of experience locally and internationally in the areas of program management, training, monitoring and evaluation, health education, and policy/advocacy. Prior to TIME’S UP, Gina worked at the New York City Department of Health engaging OB/GYN department chairpersons and other medical staff to address maternal health inequities. She also served in the United States Peace Corps in Niger from 1994-1996, where she conducted health and nutrition education with a focus on maternal and infant health and guinea worm eradication. In addition, she has worked extensively with the U.S.’ leading HIV/AIDS organizations.