Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day and the Business Case for Diversity

November 2, 2017

Migdalia Diaz

COO, ALPFA, Inc.

As Chief Operating Officer of ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals For America), Migdalia’s goal is to create a future where any Latino can look in any direction, in any industry, and find a Latino role model to emulate. Prior to joining ALPFA, Migdalia was the Priority Projects Manager for AIRINC, working with the Operations Committee to prioritize company projects and deliver those projects while also managing two suites of products.

Prior to her role at AIRINC, Migdalia worked for 10 years in the International Assignment Solutions Group for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Hartford, Connecticut; Auckland, New Zealand and Boston, Massachusetts offices. She managed clients with small and medium sized expatriate programs and assisted them with the specific tax compliance, policy and payroll related issues unique to programs of this size.

Migdalia also served in the Connecticut Army National Guard for eight years where she learned the importance of teamwork and of working efficiently. Migdalia graduated with a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Connecticut.

Migdalia currently sits on the board of Junior Achievement Northern New England.

Last weekend I was playing with my two-year-old niece and thinking about her future. Now more than ever it feels like we are constantly presented with evidence that the shade of our skin will still be a barrier and that our gender will determine the quality of our life experience.

Typically, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Latinas make 50 cents for every dollar earned by white males, as compared to 82 cents earned by women overall. 

That doesn’t work for me and it is certainly not the future I want my niece stepping into.

Over the years I have attended many events focused on developing and empowering women to advance in their organizations.  What has become increasing clear is that this is not enough.  Preparing women to overcome the existing injustices is like training soldiers to survive the fight but not addressing why we are at war to begin with. 

While getting to the factors keeping the gender pay gap in place requires a deep dive into social and economic structures, I will posit that, at the very least, to move the needle we need the buy-in of the leadership of companies across the country. That buy-in will result in the creation of opportunities for advancement and a commitment to paying for talent, blind of gender. To get that buy-in, we have to continue to make a business case.

So let’s look at the statistics. There are roughly 55.5 million Latinos making up 18% of the US population. In Massachusetts, that percentage is closer to 10.5%. By 2050 the Latino population is expected to triple.  Considering that women make 85% of buying decisions and are playing a more significant role in financial decisions (holding sway over 51.3% of the nation’s private wealth), we are looking at a future where the purchasing power governed by Latinas will continue to grow.

As consumer demographics shift, the urgency for companies to include diverse candidates in high level positions, and on their Board of Directors to better serve that demographic, continues to grow.  And the need for Latinas to be represented in that diversity is paramount.

I do not believe that change will happen quickly, but I do see it happening. 

I recall attending an ALPFA convention where the company I worked for at the time was hosting a boat cruise for all employees.  Seemingly out of nowhere one of the senior leaders gave a short speech that I will never forget.  In that speech, he talked about a meeting he had just had with other senior leaders around promotion practices related to women who had taken maternity leave or were out for longer periods related to child-rearing.  Here is what he asked everyone at the table:

Imagine that you are the coach for a basketball team that is in the middle of a championship game.  At the moment you are losing, but you know that if you put the right player in, you could still win the game.  So, who are you going to choose?  Let’s say you have two options, one player has made every practice, has worked hard, is a great player and is always there for the team; the other player has been out of the game for two years, but is back now, physically capable and committed as ever.

Many of you may think that is an easy decision, the one that has been present and training should get the opportunity.  But what if I told you that the player that had been out of the game for two years was Michael Jordan?  Then who would you choose? 

The point he made that day was that companies should be evaluating talent, not the time spent in a position, the number of hours worked, or whether there have been any gaps in service. If talent was not the foremost consideration in terms of opportunity for promotion, then the company was measuring the wrong things.  Companies should be assessing and remunerating talent, blind of gender or time in service.

So how do we move the needle?  I am sure that opinions vary on this greatly. The work we do at ALPFA addresses three major components:  1) developing and empowering Latinas to advance through our Women of ALPFA programs; 2) beginning the education and empowerment of our Latino community at a much younger age through our partnerships with Girls Scouts and Junior Achievement; and 3) engaging executives from organizations across the country in these conversations through programs like the 50 Most Powerful Latinas Event in partnership with Fortune Magazine.

Are we going to solve the country’s problems anytime in the near future? No. But in the time between when I heard that speech and now, the number of executives I have interacted with who are not only clear on the issues but openly willing to discuss and address them has more than quadrupled.  It is slow progress, but it is progress nonetheless.

We simply need to keep our eye on the ball as we continue to push forward.