Gender, wage gap disparity in Harris County wider than national average; Latinas are at the bottom of pay scale

Stronger Houston

HARRIS COUNTY – The gender wage gap in Harris County continues to grow, according to a University of Houston study.

The group with the largest disparity is Latina women.

Latina women will have to work through Dec. 8, 2022 to make the same wages their white male counterparts earned in 2021, according to Equal Pay Today.

“They could be doing the same job, can have very similar backgrounds, but yet, that is the disparity that this pay structure has created,” Ivette Mayo, Founder & CEO, Power On Heels Fund, Inc. “It’s a bias and it’s being done intentionally.”

Mayo said Power On Heels Fund started as a passion project, which evolved into a non-profit that advocates against the gender pay gap for Latinas and women of color.

“Latinas are at the bottom of the pay scale and they suffer from gender pay gap more than any other community currently in the workforce,” Mayo added.

Hispanic women in Harris County make $.37 cents to the dollar compared to white male earners. Black women make $.45 cents, Asian women were paid $.62 cents and White women earned $.70 cents.

“Race ethnicity and gender, women of color are going to feel the weight of both of those disparities,” said Elizabeth Gregory, Director of the Women’s Gender & Sexuality Program with the University of Houston.

Gregory, the Director of the Women’s Gender & Sexuality Program with the University of Houston, calls that the double gap. Her department has been researching the gender pay gap in Harris County and wage inequality for several years.

“When you look at Harris County data you realize, ‘Oh, this is an environment that has a bigger gap between one population and the rest of the populations, and it may be connected to the signature industry of the area, which is oil and gas, which is heavily white male employees at the upper ranks,’” Gregory added.

Nationally, the report shows the gender wage gap shrunk slightly from 20% down to 19%. In Harris County, the gap widened from 17% in 2017 ($.83 to the dollar) to 20% in 2019 ($.80 to the dollar.)

In addition to low wages, the study also looked at the impact of the country’s poverty rate and other factors that contributed to the widening of the gender wage gap.

“Some people just are inequality paid because of bias, but then there are issues around things like whose taking care of children,” Gregory said.

Mayo said the negative economic impact can affect multiple generations.

“Hispanic women support on average three generations -- herself, her family and her parents,” Mayo said. “And if she’s making less money for everyone else, then there’s less money for her.”

Power On Heels offers free training annually to help be part of the solution.

“We create greater awareness to what gender pay gap inequity is, where the deficiencies are, but most importantly how she can become her best advocate by having information, becoming more comfortable with her own personal leadership and confidence to go in and ask for money,” Mayo added.

High school students and professional women can then apply for a scholarship after completing the training.

Dr. Angela Gala Gonzalez, who is now a transformational health coach, was awarded the non-profit’s first scholarship in 2019. It helped her get her certification to transition from employee to business owner.

“Power On Heels was a source of empowerment... letting me know that I have the strength and you can do it,” Gala Gonzalez said.

The Afro-Latina said it will take the voices of other women to continue the fight for equal pay.

“Stand up within the gap and just make sure that you close it as much as you can and fight for it,” said the health coach.

Gregory said businesses also have a role in advocating for fair and unbiased policies.

“Historically, we’ve had a lot of rules against people asking what’s your pay and you could even be fired for asking someone else what their pay was, so try to undo that, try to create wage transparency,” Gregory added.

The State of California just passed a transparency law to help alleviate sex wage disparities. Starting January of 2023, employers with more than 15 workers will have to post the minimum and maximum salary ranges for any job in that state.