By Marissa Armas

(CBS4) – Oct. 21 is National Latina Equal Pay Day. It’s a day that’s meant to shine light on the wage gap, and experts say it’s recognized on this day because research shows it takes 10 extra months on average for a Latina working full-time to earn what the average white man earns in a year in the United States.

Andreea Aguado, who’s a young professional in Denver, says she has experienced wage discrimination in the past.

“I find myself being frustrated a lot,” Aguado told CBS4. “I was paid at minimum wage with a bachelor’s degrees starting, when I know for a fact that my counterparts were being paid $16-$18 an hour.”

Since graduating from college, Aguado has worked in the mental health field, and in almost every job she’s had she’s experienced a wage gap.

“Graduating from college and getting a great job in my field, I thought was a huge accomplishment, but I felt like was it even worth it at this rate,” says Aguado.

Aguado says it’s taken her years to learn how to navigate these conversations, and it’s something she sees many of her friends and younger peers continue to struggle with.

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Joelle Martinez, the Latino Leadership Institute president and CEO says, the wage gap for Latinas is an issue that impacts everyone. Over the next 5 years, Martinez says Colorado Latinos will represent 50% of the workforce replacement, and Latinas are a big part of that.

“So if we are making less, than we are contributing less to taxes, we’re contributing less to retirement funds, which everyone is able to draw from, we’re unable to purchase homes,” Martinez says. “It creates a ripple effect in the economy, for the marketplace, for the people who are relying on us being big contributors into the economy.”

Martinez said the pandemic really magnified how big this issue is not only in Colorado, but around the country. Martinez said to fix this not only do we need policy change, but also workplaces can begin by addressing this internally.

For Aguado, she now has a job that meets her financial needs, but she hopes her story will help other Latinas speak up for themselves.

“Do your market research in the field, make sure that you know what you’re capable of, and what you bring to the table,” Aguado said.

Marissa Armas