This Is How We Close the Gender Wage Gap

November 1, 2016

By Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts and Cynthia Nimmo, President and CEO, Women’s Funding Network

I know the profound impact gender combined with race discrimination can have on a family. I am a first-generation Mexican–American, and it is also my privilege, as the CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, to be part of a movement of local leaders who are making progress toward gender equity by centering on women of color. 

Cynthia Nimmo is the CEO of Women’s Funding Network, where she leads a network of 100 women’s funding organizations, all of them investing in building a better world for women and girls. She was born in the United States into a bi-national family. Many of her family in Peru emigrated to the U.S. over the years, including her mother who arrived about fifty years ago.

And while both of us were raised to believe that hard work at a good job should result in a living wage - today, we acknowledge, that sadly, it does not—least of all for Latinas.

Women’s Equal Pay Day passed us by on April 12—the day the average woman must work into the next year to earn the equivalent of what the average man earned in the previous year. African–American Women’s Equal Pay Day followed much later in the year on August 23. Now, it’s November 1st, and finally it’s Latina Equal Pay Day.

Latinas typically earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, which means she must work nearly 23 months to earn what white men earn in 12 months. For perspective, that is a bigger pay gap than the average white woman experienced in 1960.

The preceding equal pay days evoked disappointment, but today, our outrage renews our passion for change. That’s why today we join Treasurer Goldberg, along with a national coalition (, in a day of action for Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day.

Women’s foundations were a key partner in many of the historic milestones reached in the last year. Forty-four of these foundations (to see a full list visit the Women’s Funding Network Interactive Funding Map and filter on Economic Security) invest in women’s economic security as a grantmaking priority. In 2015, that resulted in $74.6M being invested in programs to move women and their families out of poverty.

Women’s foundations have been working at a direct service level to increase women’s access to financial literacy or negotiation training, building cross-sector partnerships at the community level that encourage solutions-orientated dialogue often with local businesses, and investing in research that can be used by advocates and policymakers to drive systems-level change. What these programs look like varies widely depending on the foundation and the community it serves.

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) invests in systems-level change on a variety of levels. This year, we were part of a coalition that helped pass one of the toughest equal pay laws in the country, providing employers with a much-needed definition of “comparable work” entitled to equal pay, preventing employers from firing employees for discussing their compensation with co-workers, and banning employers from asking for a candidate’s salary history during the hiring process.

We are also honored to serve on Treasurer Goldberg’s Advisory Committee on Wage Equality, a public–private partnership that aggregated equal pay best practices and resources. The result of the Treasurer’s effort is, providing a wage gap calculator, employer tool kit, and other valuable equal pay resources. We are also proud to support the Treasurer’s ongoing comprehensive efforts to improving women’s economic security, which includes negotiation workshops, financial literacy training, and innovative college affordability programs.

At the grassroots level, we support and train women to run for office; to take charge on policy issues that impact their lives; to lead. Alumnae from our Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact program were instrumental in galvanizing support as well as mobilizing in district and statehouse advocacy for S.2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity, which will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

This holistic approach is how we close the gap. 

To truly make an impact on that 54 cent figure, though, we need strategic investment in areas where we are a more concentrated percentage of the population. In Massachusetts: Lawrence is about 74% Latino, Chelsea is 62%, Holyoke is almost 50% Latino, and nearly 40% of Springfield residents identify as Latino. Women’s foundations in these areas know best the solutions to the economic issues Latinas face because we center women of color voices – we ask them, listen to them, let them lead the way.

There is movement toward equal pay. There is real change. Women’s foundations do this work because we believe each woman and girl deserves an equal chance to prosper. This is not a women’s issue. This is not a Latino issue. If you exist in a community with women, this is your issue. You have a vested interest in fixing this for Latinas, for African–American women, for all women because you will benefit from this, too. When women thrive, communities thrive.