LATINAS IN SILICON Valley get paid 33 cents for every dollar a white man earns — and local leaders say that needs to change.
Dozens of people gathered recently in Santa Clara for a joint rally in honor of Latina Equal Pay Day, hosted by the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy and Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley. Attendees wore shades of olive and forest green to represent the fight for fair pay, holding posters with phrases like “Equal pay for equal work.”
“One of the underpinnings of our country has been that if you work hard and you play by the rules… you deserve to make a fair wage,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “What we’re demanding today is every single employer play a leadership role in making sure that men and women and people of color within your organizations are paid equally and fairly.”
Alexis Roman, a senior programs manager with the Young Women’s Freedom Center, attended the Dec. 8 rally with her coworkers. She said she’s still learning to advocate for herself as a younger Latina in the workforce.
“(This event) just shows how much community is actually needed,” Roman told San José Spotlight. “Coalition amongst other organizations is really critical in order to make sure that generationally, this doesn’t continue happening and we do get the pay that we deserve.”
The earning disparity that disproportionately affects Latinas streams down into housing access and affording basic needs, which advocates say cascades into a larger problem for the health and growth of Silicon Valley. On average, Latinas lose more than $46,000 annually compared to their male counterparts.
“These are heads of households… These are drivers of our economic activity here in the state of California,” Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, executive director of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, told San José Spotlight. “If you’re not fairly paying them, they are held back from contributing to a thriving economy.”
San Jose remains the most expensive major U.S. city for monthly household bills, and faces the worst housing supply crisis in the nation. A recent report revealed that free child care would allow 7,000 Santa Clara County households to afford basic needs without assistance. Meanwhile, 61 percent of Latino households rely on government assistance compared to 33 percent of other Silicon Valley households.
Darcie Green, executive director of Latinas Contra Cancer, said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the relationship between wealth inequality and lack of access to health care and basic needs. The organization advocates and provides services for cancer patients.
“This pay gap that our Latino community continues to face is absolutely a health crisis,” Green told San José Spotlight. “One only needs to look at the impacts of the pandemic and how disproportionately Latinos were impacted by the pandemic to see the intersection between health and income.”
Data from the 2022 Silicon Valley Pain Index reveals 11 percent of Latino residents are living in poverty, and Latino residents saw a pay cut of $404 on average throughout the pandemic. Schools in East San Jose are seeing drops in test scores, as families and children recover from housing insecurity, as well as the loss of jobs and loved ones during the pandemic.
Poverty leaves physical, mental and generational impacts, Green said. Families battling the wealth gap have less funds to prioritize their health and have higher risks of facing chronic health conditions, she added.
“There’s a lot of trauma involved in poverty,” she said.
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