5 Latinas closing the wealth gap

5 Latinas on closing the wealth gap

By: Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda, author of Jefa in Training + business development strategist for the new majority. www.ashleykstoyanovojeda.com 

Latinas are starting businesses faster than any other demographic yet they still receive less than 2% of VC funds. On average, Latinas are earning $0.57 for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men. 

And while there is a clear inequality in how Latinas are able to make money, they have the fastest-growing purchasing power and have injected close to 2 trillion dollars into the US economy. 

So how are Latinas closing the wealth gap? What can allies do to help?

We interviewed 5 Latina leaders working towards a more inclusive and equitable financial future through their services, books, communities and podcasts.

 Here’s what they have to say on why this issue exists, what Latinas can do to set themselves up for success and how we can all help close the gap.

Paulette Pinero, Latina Leadership Coach and founder of Unstoppable Latinas

Paulette Pinero

“We can spend hours talking about the need to “elevate our mindsets” and “stay out of victimhood”, but the reality is that we first need to address how since childhood, our community was designed to make accessing wealth more difficult for us.“

The cause of the gap is systemic.

Underestimated folks are constantly playing catch up because governmental policies were put in place for hundreds of years to deny us the right to build wealth compared to our white male counterparts. The gap for Latinas and Women of Color is by design, with research showing that even this year, the wage gap widened for Black, Latina, and Indigenous women. Once you add other intersectionalities like motherhood, disability, and being LGBTQIA+ other systemic barriers affect our capacity to build wealth. 

Our parents and grandparents were denied loans, jobs, or access to housing in communities with fully-funded public education, all indicators of creating generational wealth. Higher interest rates and unethical loans kept past generations in debt, hindering us from staying out of debt ourselves when we go to college or purchase our first home. We are constantly trying to play catch up and feeling guilty that we are not building an “abundance mindset.”

And hey, I’m not talking about staying in WTF complain mode. Still, you can understand the cause and impact of the wage gap on yourself when you go back to your history and identify the obstacles that past generations couldn’t overcome. Doing that exercise in my own life taught me the impact colonization, redlining, and sexism had on my abuelas and how they impacted my own capacity to build generational wealth. By understanding my past, I can now create actionable steps to value my work at an industry rate (not feelings), create a financial plan for my money vision (by learning about investments), and set up my children for success (by sharing where I f*cked up). 

We’ve been told money is evil. 

One mindset challenge Latinas face when making money is breaking up with the idea that money and wealth are evil. We are bombarded by messages of folks using money to pursue their vision without a care about how they affect those around them. Latinas are very community-focused, whether that is our families or the spaces they are a part of, so it’s easy to feel like wanting to make money is a selfish desire. It’s this emotional back and forth of wanting to build generational wealth, but I’m not willing to do what it takes to create it because I don’t want to take the shortcuts other folks take.

Good news, you don’t have to. You can make money from your strengths, your superpoderes, and still be part of your community. Wealth is a tool you use to reinvest in the causes you care about. Wealth doesn’t widen the gap in your community, it actually makes you an active participant because you are now a member of the economic development of your ecosystem. Wealth gives you the power to step up when fast change needs to happen but also allows you to step back and recharge so you can show up to the things that matter to you. I see money as a tool to achieve the life you and your community, however you define community, deserve. Wealth, whether that is money, freedom, peace of mind, or a lot of mofongos is not unattainable, it’s your birthright.

We need to be talking about it.  

The first thing is to talk about it… A LOT. Talk with your co-workers about the wage gap for women of color, your family, your friends, and everyone with whom you build a relationship. People can’t join you in the fight for equity if they don’t have all the facts or understand the impact of their inaction. I’ll never forget interviewing for a senior role at an organization, and the HR director kept asking about my salary expectations. Of course, I pushed back to have her share their salary range for the role until she responded, “I can’t move you forward to the last phase of the interview process without this information.” After a deep breath, I told her, “your organization prides itself on your equity work, and as you probably know, Latinas face one of the largest wage gaps in the US.

If your organization cares about removing obstacles for folks of color, you understand why not giving me the salary range puts me at a disadvantage. How do we go from here?”. She was stunned and shared that no one had ever pushed back on this question, so the executive team would ignore her requests to add the salary to the job descriptions. Now she had an example to discuss why not having this information detracted folks in the offer stage. If a company or client gets offended when you advocate for yourself and just treatment, you get a clear message about the culture you will experience when you work with them. It’s better to decline an opportunity to work with someone at the beginning than to spend time in a toxic environment where you have to constantly prove yourself.

A step we can take right now to close the gap: 

Research shows that Latinas negotiate salaries and promotions at a similar rate to their white male counterparts. The challenge is not that we don’t negotiate enough, so let’s get that out of the way. Working with career and entrepreneurial Latinas, I’ve uncovered that we tend to focus on the money over the full compensation during negotiation discussions. Identify a salary or rate that works for you, and then list your “need to have” and “want to have” benefits or perks. For career jefas, your health insurance can be a “need to have.” Still, commuter benefits, a professional development fund, or your employer paying your internet bill for remote work is a “want to have.” For entrepreneurs, you already have a set price for your work or product but you can negotiate to collaborate with a client, like sharing your business with their email list, do a social media campaign, or even submitting a paid speaking pitch together. Anything with monetary value or savings in your pocket needs to be part of your compensation discussion.

I constantly talk about making success personal and what it means is for you to double down on your strengths, your superpoderes, and then identify what you need from your environment to achieve the life you want for yourself. It’s great to have an employer offer you free snacks at work, but if your definition of success is saving money for your child’s education in an investment account, those snacks have no value. When you are clear on your needs and values, then you can go into money conversations with a clear vision in your mind and stay strong. That’s how you find clients or companies that align with your magia. Never forget that any type of work you do for others is a strategic partnership, so assess if you are receiving the same amount of commitment you are providing the other party.

What allies can do to help

Pay us for our work. Hugs, social media reposts, and connecting us with opportunities don’t matter when you as an ally don’t value our work. Use your power and influence to advocate for equity pay and compensation. Before you send that introduction email with a new role, ask your contact for the compensation and include it in the email. It’s one thing to say, “I have to introduce you to this great friend of mine,” but you can create an impact when you approach it with “I have the ideal person for this opportunity, can you share the compensation before I make the introduction? That way, you both decide if this collaboration is worth pursuing.” One of the best ways to show you are a true ally is when you use your privilege in a situation to keep folks in your circle accountable.

Lyanne Alfaro, Host of Moneda Moves podcast 

Lyanne Alfaro

Many of us grow up with humility as a core value in our culture. Know that securing your bag and building generational wealth is not a rejection of humility. The way I see it, it is a tool which you can use to build the kind of future you envision not just for yourself but for so many in your community.”

There is a huge lack of access

The wealth gap is a result of many factors, but a lot to do with unequal access to resources across different groups. Let’s talk about the racial wealth gap, for instance. Case in point: The Federal Housing Authority was built on exclusionary practices targeting Black and brown communities. In the 1930s, in my hometown of Chicago, European American neighborhoods were deemed most desirable and least risky for mortgage lending while communities where Black and Latino communities lived were deemed most risky and least desirable, as defined by FHA’s agency Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. This came to be known as redlining, and growing up in a working class Latino neighborhood in my city in the early 2000s, it was still a concept I knew and learned early on about. Why? It’s still so highly relevant because these harmful designs really did setback our communities when it came to building wealth in homeownership.

Access to homeownership is just one of our issues that we need to correct to rectify the wealth gap. Other issues are access to education, networks, positions of power and just getting paid our worth to accelerate wealth building for communities that have been historically set back economically.

We need systemic change

There are plenty of studies that prove the benefit of having women in positions of power at work and that they drive the bottom line. Additionally, having Latinas in these positions better helps cater to a massive Latino $2.8 trillion GDP that our community has to offer.

We need systems that work better for Latinas and for caretakers, including: jobs that pay fair wages, offer fair promotions, clear mentorship and coaching to help them climb the corporate ladder if they so desire. We need more Latinas in boards, C-suites. We need caretaking support. We need our entrepreneurial cohort and their companies funded, mentored. We need to create a world where Latinas feel not just empowered but equipped to ask for the raise, the position at the company, to charge the rates they are worth at market value.

While acknowledging our histories with money is super important, if, for example, we grew in scarcity, imagine what kind of conversations we could have if the world we lived in and systems in place strived to make it more equitable and designed for us to not just survive but also thrive in it.

Micro and macro ways to close the gap

We’ve talked a bit about what companies and structures can do to close the wage gap. I think Latinas and allies can help by voicing their concerns, negotiating their pay, asking for the raise and having the audacity to  apply for that job they are 70% qualified for. That’s at a micro level.

At a macro level, I think impacting the way companies run, creating the companies of tomorrow, influencing how policy works and beginning to target some of these system issues that are much more complicated could also have such a greater “net win” effect for Latinas.

Negotiation and networking will close the gap

I think we should learn to negotiate, find the right network that will help us grow, and think as big as we want. I also think it’s important to work with diverse groups, to gain exposure to how other cohorts approach money, business and problem-solving because not only do I think there’s power in collaboration when values align, but I also think there’s a lot to learn.

Vanessa Duran, Founder and advisor at DCC Accounting

Vanessa Duran

I believe that the circumstances that cause most of us to choose to come to this country dictate how we see ourselves in it and what we think we deserve. “ 

We don’t feel like we belong

The wealth gap is a complex issue with multiple roots, but I would like to focus on the issue of belonging.

For most of us, who either ourselves or our ancestors came to the country for the first time as illegal immigrants, the process of immigration and current policies can be a barrier to finding our place and our worth. As a result we might feel undeserving and in many cases scared to demand what we need, especially fair pay. For most of us demanding fair pay might feel like pushing it, like overstaying our welcome.

I also believe that current policy reinforces this issue as it falls short to protect the immigrant worker. It is an issue that primarily affects illegal immigrants but I feel it permeates and stays with us even after we have gained legal status. It also permeates our mindsets in how we approach demanding our worth. I have heard from bosses not offering fair pay to their immigrant workers that the workers should be grateful that they get offered a job in the first place and be happy with making below minimum wage as their English language is lacking, or whatever other excuse they can come up with. It is really hard to demand your worth when you are unable to feel that you belong and that you are protected by policy. It is really hard to demand your worth when your employer thinks and acts as if they’re doing you a favor.

Mindset shifts are necessary

My clients often apologize for not being organized enough with their finances. We shouldn’t feel bad about this. We should honor how our current mindset came to be in the first place as it brought us here. Most of us came from very little and it is natural as we start to make money to feel unease and not know how to manage it. Recognizing that managing money is a skill as any other and can be learned is a required mindset shift. We  need to shift from a mindset of ‘Money attracts money’ to ‘I can educate myself around managing my money. I can create a budget and invest’.

Latinas need to support each other

We need to create spaces where we can help, inspire and educate each other. To help each other find belonging and inclusion and to share opportunities as a community. 

The basic personal finance skills will help us level up

I think everyone should be seeking basic personal finance skills: budgeting, learning how to save and invest should become baseline skills. Creating that awareness around education and personal development is required to help the mindset shift required to level up. 

We need to protect immigrants

Demand for immigration and general policies that empowers and protects immigrants. Create opportunities that are genuine and constant and inclusive, always and not just during Hispanic heritage month. Use their platforms to educate, promote belonging and the sharing of opportunities.

Valeria Aloe, Author of Uncolonized Latinas and founder of The Rising Together Movement 

Valeria Aloe

“Closing the wealth gap is top-down as much as it is bottom-up. While we need leaders to advocate for equal pay and implement procedures and regulations towards closing this gap, we equally need our Latinas to believe in their worth and powerful contributions, and to embrace their voice to self-advocate for what they deserve.”

The gap is rooted in system inequalities

What we measure today as a wealth gap, has been ancestrally rooted into system inequalities affecting women and communities of color for centuries. Its deep essence is based on the belief that women and individuals of color lack the skills, talents, or required dedication to create value in the same way as white males do in a capitalist society.

The wealth gap persists because of systemic racism and machismo, lack of access to education and opportunities, and performance bias towards those who are female, carry an accent, or are darker-skinned.

There are cultural mindsets that perpetuate the Latina wealth gap

While the wealth gap is systemic, Latinas perpetuate it each time we accept a job or a project below market value. In this way, we continue to create the expectation that we are willing to do the work for less, or that our work is worth less. These behaviors of accepting less money for our work or job position is rooted in ancestral and outdated cultural ways of thinking that continue to hold us back to this day, particularly when it comes to immigrant Latinas and daughters of immigrants 

These limiting cultural mindsets that perpetuate the Latina wealth gap include”

– a general feeling of lack or inadequacy: in other words, believing we are not as good as a white male for the work we are tasked to do, so why would we charge market value for it?

– a cultural tendency to not ask for what we need or to not negotiate our proposals or job offers, accepting a lower price too fast, 

– and a generalized mindset of scarcity that leads us to believe that there is not enough for all, so we better take what we are offered and be “just thankful” for it, rather than embrace the mindset that we can be abundant, and that it is ok to want more and to ask for more.

What is pervasive about these limiting mindsets is that they are quite unconscious, driving our behaviors without us being too aware about them, and that they get passed on from generation to generation. Additionally, because our community does not generally have access to white non-Latino mentors and sponsors, we do not get visibility into what market prices could look like for our work among those who do get compensated at a market rate.

How healing can help Latinas close the gap

Work on our mindsets: we must first heal and overcome our sense of inadequacy and lack, our tendency to not ask for what we need or want, and our scarcity mindset, before we will sound convincing enough when we ask to be paid market value for the work we do. If we come from a place of low self-esteem and self-worth we run the risk of sounding apologetic when making the ask. 

Understand our value, and stop minimizing our qualifications and experience: the more we understand the significant value we bring to our professional places, and the more we remember our unique talents and skills, embracing how they correlate to our clients’ and companies’ successes, the more we will self-advocate, becoming our own “agents” when it comes to asking for the money we deserve.

Build a network of successful professionals and mentors within and outside the Latino community, who can provide meaningful business contacts, and unbiased guidance on pricing and salaries.

Go after opportunities even if we feel we are not checking 100% of the boxes or requirements, yet. Opportunities for growth and wealth creation reside in our stretch zone, that area where we may even feel vulnerable about not knowing all the answers and not having an exact roadmap to success. In this space, we must trust our resourcefulness and creativity to figure out a path forward.

 To set ourselves up for success

We need to continuously invest in our development. Compared to other communities, there is a certain resistance or lack of appreciation among Latinas for the value of continuous, life-long learning. Latinas are generally reluctant to invest in their own development or to allocate their companies’ funds to programs that will support Latinas to grow. Underneath this, there could be an ancestral mindset of unworthiness, or of not being deserving of investing in intangible assets for ourselves, such as our education and development.

Drop our multiple fears and self-judgements when it is time to ask for more. Contrary to what our culture has led us to believe, it is OK to want more and it is OK to ask for it. A way to prepare ourselves as we plan to make that ask is to do research on market values, to understand our skills and qualifications and their impact on the work we do, and to practice how to make the ask with a trusted group of peers or mentors.

Research shows there are three areas of high importance when it comes to women or individuals of color building their careers, particularly those who are the firsts in their families to access their professions:

a- Build a personal and professional brand

b- Build a network of mentors and sponsors

c- Learn to negotiate and navigate conflict

Allies need to let go of assumptions

  • Offer to become our mentors and sponsors, even if we do not ask. Latinas may be shy when it comes to asking for guidance from leaders who do not look like us.
  • Ask us “how can I help you? what can I do for you?” letting go of assumptions and being ready to listen to what it is we need the most.
  • Share your roadmap with us. How do you advocate for yourself and your market value? Many of us are the firsts in our families to our professions and we lack an inter-generational roadmap on how to ask for our market value, or how to build long term wealth.
  • Advocate for equal pay in the spaces of leadership and influence you have access to.

Gigi Gonzalez, The First Gen Mentor 

Gigi Gonzalez

“Being the first in your family to build wealth can feel lonely and overwhelming. Understand that building wealth takes time, knowledge, and patience.”

Systemic oppression and lack of education need to be addressed

Systemic oppression through redlining and gerrymandering have intentionally held back minority groups from the ability to build generational wealth. U.S. financial institutions don’t do a good job of making themselves accessible to minority groups. They don’t have enough bilingual speakers and use complicated financial jargon, which can be overwhelming and alienating to black, indigenous and other people of color who may not have grown up with those teachings at home. And lastly, there is a lack of financial education in our public school system so young adults never learn how to properly manage their money and build generational wealth. 

Generational money narratives play a factor

Growing up in a Mexican household, the money narratives I often heard were “don’t be greedy, and be grateful for what you have” which can keep many Latinas from seeking higher paying roles or negotiating their pay. I was also told that money was the root of all evil which I later learned was the reason I was repelling money.

Everyone has a money story – we need to understand ours

First understand your money story. Did you know you start building your relationship to money as early as 7 years old? Think about which money narratives you grew up with, and evaluate whether they’re holding you back in your wealth building journey. If you feel financial anxiety or suffer from financial trauma, seek the help of a trained therapist. 

Next, understand why you want to build wealth as getting clear on your why will help you stay motivated as you work on you financial goals when things get tough. Are you planning for a home? For a nice vacation? To retire your parents? Use this why as your north star. Lastly, learn the language of money! Take ownership of your financial education by reading books, enrolling in courses, listening to podcasts etc to learn how build money management skills.

We have to speak up to close the gap

Get comfortable asking others about their career journey. This will help you get clarity on what sort of career moves to make to advance. Stay on top of industry trends and pursue professional certificates/designation to position yourself to command a higher salary. Most importantly learn how to advocate for yourself! “My work will speak for itself” is a lie. You have to get comfortable tooting your own horn and showcasing your value and contributions. If you’re interested in a promotion or a high visibility project, speak up and tell your manager. Lastly, learn how to negotiate your salary and practice your negotiation skills frequently so you feel comfortable slaying that salary negotiation when the time comes up.

In community we are stronger

Being the first in your family to build wealth can feel lonely and overwhelming. Understand that building wealth takes time, knowledge, and patience. Find community and surround yourself with likeminded people. Join your employer’s ERG, get in touch with your alma mater’s alumni group and attend professional networking events to find support within your community. 

We need mentorship from allies

Mentor us by helping us navigate our career. A lot of us are the first in our family to navigate corporate spaces so having the support of an experienced mentor can really help us advance in the workplace. Sponsor us by highlighting our work and achievements in rooms we aren’t allowed into to help us get visibility. Introduce us to your network to help lead to future opportunities. Share your salary and bonus history to help us reach pay equity. And don’t read this article and think, “yeah I should do that” and never execute. Show up for us! Allyship is a verb.

By: Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda, author of Jefa in Training + business development strategist for the new majority. www.ashleykstoyanovojeda.com 

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