I find it ironic that as we gathered for the Women’s Leadership Board meeting at the Harvard Kennedy School, the world of female empowerment gets a black eye with the firing of Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor at the New York Times.

Media, top minds, bloggers and women at large are outraged after learning that the polite “issue with management in the newsroom” excuse for her dismissal was reportedly related to Abramson’s demand for equal pay. While the New York Times has denied the claim, according to The New Yorker Abramson may have offended her male bosses’ sensibilities by being too “pushy” over a wage gap between herself and the man who previously held the position as head editor.

What good does it do to get educated yet be undervalued and stereotyped when it comes to opportunity and pay? An analysis of pay gap by race and gender reveals that Hispanic women are disproportionately affected, earning 53 percent of white men’s earning.

- Liliana Gil

In the era of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and the fast-growing Latina Red Shoe Movement, it is cases like Abramson’s that serve as a vivid reminder that women’s issues prevail around gender stereotypes, equal pay and a boy’s club mentality that rule key decision-making in the C-suite.

Clearly, decades of data and Catalyst reports reporting marginal progress for women’s issues in the workplace and politics have not been enough to fix a system that tends to mislabel assertiveness for pushiness and motivation for aggression, therefore undermining the true potential of extraordinarily talented women.

In an attempt to graduate from simply reporting data to documenting scientific and actionable interventions, the Harvard Kennedy School recently launched the Gender Action Portal. The reports and solutions suggested provide evidence addressing issues around bias, competition, compensation, leadership, among others. Many of the shocking qualitative studies confirm how professional women suffer negative consequences for displays of emotion in the workplace, how workgroup sex and race composition affects turnover and career mobility, among other issues.

As Abramson’s story puts a magnifying glass over the embarrassing issue of equal pay, a closer look at the data highlights a much greater issue for minorities, particularly Latinas in the workplace.

In 1980, women earned 60.2 cents for every $1 men did; by 2011women earned 76.5 cents for every dollar that men did last year, moving no closer to narrowing a gender pay gap. In fact that is a $16 dollar “improvement” over 30 years.

While the statistics around Hispanic growth have now penetrated the hallways of boardrooms and Washington, D.C. it is Hispanic women who have not yet been granted the value they represent as America’s fastest growing female segment. Between 2010 and 2020, Hispanic women drive 100 percent of the growth of women 18-49 in the U.S. reporting a +28.3 percent increase versus -1.8 percent for non-Hispanic women. Which means the pool for talent, economic growth and female base driving “all” the growth in America is driven by Latinas. And yet, they are not getting their fair share in equal pay and opportunity.

A greater share of Hispanic recent high school graduates are enrolled in college than whites, as reported by the Pew Research Center. Forty-nine percent of young Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college. By comparison, 47 percent of white non-Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college. What good does it do to get educated yet be undervalued and stereotyped when it comes to opportunity and pay? An analysis of pay gap by race and gender reveals that Hispanic women are disproportionately affected, earning 53 percent of white men’s earning, versus 78 percent for non-Hispanic women, according to AAUW.  The median income for a college educated Latina is $37,405 versus $61,175 for a college educated white-male. First quarter 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights Hispanic women as those earning the lowest median weekly, at $214 versus $240 for white women; a 12 percent gap.

As the media evaluates the role gender played in Abramson’s abrupt dismissal from the New York Times, we reflect on an even more concerning issue that touches our community in a way it is hardly ever discussed.  Just as women have spent decades to overcome issues around equal pay, bias and opportunity, it is time to amplify the cultural, racial and gender gap that exists amongst the group that represents 100 percent of the growth of the female base of future professionals, leaders and consumers in this country. 

As America is quickly becoming a majority/minority country with Hispanics driving 53 percent of the total population growth, addressing the issue of equality in the group that represents the future of our nation should be a priority for all.

Lili Gil Valletta is an award-winning entrepreneur, multicultural marketing strategist, media contributor and co-founder of XL Alliance. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and member of the Harvard Kennedy School Women's Leadership Board.

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