Fierce

Colorism Impacts Darker-Skinned Latinas’ Earning Potential In the Workplace More Than People Think

Photo via MoonStarer/Vecteezy (Creative Commons)

This year, Latina Equal Pay Day lands on October 21st. As a refresher, Latina Equal Pay Day is the day that Latinas in America finally make the same amount of money that their white male counterparts earned in the entirety of 2020. Because Latinas make $0.55 to every dollar a white man makes, they have to work 23 months to make what white men make in 12 months.

But Latina pay disparity is more nuanced the media usually discusses. There is an entire other prejudice that impacts an individual Latina’s earning potential: colorism.

According to a recent study by workplace equity nonprofit Coqual, Latino professionals with darker skin are 36% less likely than those with lighter skin to say their workplace evaluations accurately reflect their contributions to the company. While 53% of Latino professionals with medium skin and 72% with lighter skin say their workplace evaluations accurately reflect their contributions to the company, only 46% of darker-skinned Latinos say the same thing.

These statistics prove that it isn’t just anti-Latino discrimination that affects Latinas’ livelihoods, but the veneration* of whiteness that does so.

And that’s not all. In another Coqual study entitled “Latinos At Work“, the organization found that 43% of Latinas feel that they need to suppress parts of their authentic selves in order to conform to their company’s standards. And the “company standards” are usually very specific ones. 53% of Latinas say that their “company standards” usually align with “traditionally white male standards.”

For Latinas, the message is clear: if you want to succeed in the workplace, you must align yourself with whiteness as closely as possible.

Coqual says that the way to increase equity in the workplace is by focusing on transparency, accountability, and sustainability. There is no band-aid solution to creating an equitable workplace. Companies must work hard to embed fairness and justice into the company’s culture and practices.

In order to cultivate equity in the workplace, companies must focus on three career outcomes: performance evaluations, promotions, and pay. In all three areas, women of color report feeling undervalued, underestimated, and underpaid compared to their white peers.

One of the ways that companies can improve equity in the workplace is by focusing on promoting women of color in their organizations.

While many HR practitioners are focused on hiring diversity, employees of color and women are often looked over when it comes to promotions. And this contributes to the pay disparity between women of color and their white male counterparts.

“Hiring can seem like a quick solution, but without resources dedicated to the promotion and retention of current employees of all backgrounds, the results rarely last,” wrote Coqual in their press release.

Another way that companies can foster equity is by encouraging senior-level advocacy on behalf of employees of color.

The data on senior-level advocacy (i.e. “sponsorship”) is clear. According to Coqual, Latinos with sponsors are 42% more likely to be satisfied with their career progression than those without sponsors. The downside, however, is that only 5% of high-earning Latino professionals in large companies have senior-level advocates in their corner.

Latinas themselves can only do so much to change a workplace culture that is set up to devalue them. It is up to companies to take the initiative to make changes to create more equity for their employees.

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