This Is How We Close the Gender Wage Gap
November 1, 2016
On Latina Equal Pay Day, November 1, 2016, Cynthia Nimmo, President and CEO, Women’s Funding Network, and Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts—two Latina leaders of the women’s philanthropy community—reflect on what is needed to close the gender way gap—for all women.
“I was born in the United States into a bi-national family. Many of my family in Peru have emigrated to the U.S. over the years, including my own mother who arrived in the 1960s. I know what the life of a Latino immigrant looks like. I believe that hard work at a good job should result in a living wage. Today, I acknowledge, that sadly, it does not—least of all for Latinas.”
—Cynthia Nimmo, President and CEO, Women’s Funding Network
We are Latinas. Latinas typically earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, which means she must work nearly 23 months to earn what white men earn in 12 months. For perspective, that is a bigger pay gap than the average white woman experienced in 1960.
Women’s Equal Pay Day passed us by on April 12—the day the average woman must work into the next year to earn the equivalent of what the average man earned in the previous year. African–American Women’s Equal Pay Day followed much later in the year on August 23. Now, it’s November 1st, and finally it’s Latina Equal Pay Day.
The preceding equal pay days evoke outrage, but words almost fail us at moments like this.
That’s why today we join the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the AFL-CIO, National Women’s Law Center, and others in a day of action for Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day (latinaequalpay.org).
As CEO of Women’s Funding Network, Cynthia leads a network of 100 women’s funding organizations, all of them investing in building a better world for women and girls. Forty-four of these foundations (to see a full list visit the Women’s Funding Network Interactive Funding Map and filter on Economic Security) invest in women’s economic security as a grantmaking priority. In 2015, that resulted in $74.6M being invested in programs to move women and their families out of poverty.
“Like Cynthia, I know the profound impact gender combined with race discrimination can have on a family. I am a first-generation Mexican–American, and it is also my privilege, as the CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, to be part of a movement of local leaders who are making progress toward gender equity by centering on women of color.”
—Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts
We have seen significant milestones reached in the last year. Women’s foundations have been working at a direct service level to increase women’s access to financial literacy or negotiation training, building cross-sector partnerships at the community level that encourage solutions-orientated dialogue often with local businesses, and investing in research that can be used by advocates and policymakers to drive systems-level change.
What these programs look like varies widely depending on the foundation and the community it serves.
The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) invests in all of these levels. This year, they were part of a coalition that helped pass one of the toughest equal pay laws in the country, providing employers with a much-needed definition of “comparable work” entitled to equal pay, preventing employers from firing employees for discussing their compensation with co-workers, and banning employers from asking for a candidate’s salary history during the hiring process.
WFWM served on the state Treasurer’s Advisory Committee on Wage Equality, a public–private partnership that aggregated equal pay best practices and resources. The result of the Treasurer’s effort is equalpayma.com, providing a wage gap calculator, employer tool kit, and other valuable equal pay resources.
Then, at the grassroots level, they support and train women to run for office; to take charge on policy issues that impact their lives; to lead. Alumnae from their Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact program were instrumental in galvanizing support as well as mobilizing in district and statehouse advocacy for S.2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity, which will go into effect on July 1, 2018.
This holistic approach is how we close the gap.
To truly make an impact on that 54 cent figure, though, we need strategic investment in areas where populations of Hispanic women are highest: in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and other states. Women’s foundations in these areas know best the solutions to the economic issues Latinas face because they ask them, listen to them, work with them.
There is movement toward equal pay. There is real change. Women’s foundations do this work because we believe each woman and girl deserves an equal chance to prosper.
This is not a women’s issue. This is not a Latino issue. If you exist in a community with women, this is your issue. You have a vested interest in fixing this for Latinas, for African–American women, for all women because you will benefit from this, too. When women thrive, communities thrive, and it’s hard to thrive when you’re being so vastly underpaid.
Women’s Funding Network members working on Equal Pay as a priority issue
Of the 100 women’s funding organizations in the Women’s Funding Network, 44 identified economic security as one of their top three grantmaking priorities. From these, the following organizations identify “equal pay” as a key funding area. Most women’s foundations act as advocates for women on a range of issues, so we recommend contacting your local women’s foundation for information specific to your region. For detailed women’s foundation grantmaking information, visit the Women’s Funding Network Interactive Funding Map, where you can filter by issue, region, populations served, and more.