It’s no secret that being a woman of color in countries like the United States is a double career hurdle. Latinas, in particular, are paid 46% less than white men and 31% less than white women.
This difference is not related to lack of skills or professional preparation but rather to perpetuating stigmas and work patterns.
According to Lean In, an advocacy organization for women’s empowerment, the pay gap actually widens for women at higher education levels.
The organization’s latest report, Women in the Workplace, sheds light on women’s particular situation during 2020.
“Women, in particular, have been negatively impacted,” the report explains, “Women – especially women of color – are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security.”
According to the study’s figures, before the pandemic, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted, only 58 Black and 71 Latina.
Now, with COVID-19, those achievements seem to turn to ashes.
According to the report, as many as two million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether due to challenges created by the pandemic.
“If these women feel forced to leave the workforce, we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership — and far fewer women on track to be future leaders,” they warn. “All the progress we’ve seen over the past five years would be erased.”
In the case of Latinas, we are more likely to worry about layoffs and furloughs, and the overload of responsibilities makes stress and urgent decision making overwhelming.
As NPR explained, this “pressure cooker environment” at home disproportionately affects women’s professional lives.
“It was a really startling difference,” said University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson. “The child care crisis is wreaking havoc on women’s employment.”
And Hispanic women are “more likely to maintain a traditional view of mothers as primary caregivers,” NPR continues.
“Even as some 324,000 Latinas left the job market last month, 87,000 Latino men joined the workforce. Many Latinas also work in industries that have been hammered by the pandemic. While the overall unemployment rate fell last month, the jobless rate among Latinas rose to 11%,” they add.
In addition, the Latino community has been one of the hardest hit by the disease, with a five-fold increase in hospitalizations nationwide.
Also, nearly half of all Latina workers are employed in the three fields that suffered the greatest job losses this year between February and May: hospitality, retail, and “other services,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.
In short, while we were struggling to achieve pay and professional equality under normal conditions, the pandemic has highlighted how social structure and cultural paradigms continue to be designed to force us to swim against the tide.