In honor of Latina Equal Pay Day on November 2nd, we chose to interview to Latina leaders from two compact signing organizations! We interviewed Tania Del Rio, Diversity Outreach Officer for the City of Boston, and Lorie Valle-Yañez, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at MassMutual. Read on to see them discuss gender and race in the workplace, mentorship, and more!
1. Wage gap estimates, both from the Census and other sources, consistently show that Latinas are burdened with the largest gender pay gap. What would closing the wage gap mean to you?
TDR - Closing the wage gap for Latinas and all women would mean to me that our work, our competence, and our efforts are valued justly. Economists like Claudia Goldin have shown that even after accounting for factors often used to explain away the wage gap, such as occupational self-sorting (occupational segregation) or educational attainment, there remains a significant gender and racial wage gap. This issue does not only affect female workers but also their families and their communities. We are at a point in time where the middle class is being squeezed and to me, closing the wage gap means boosting all of us towards a more productive, fairer, and thriving society. We can’t afford to fail to make progress on this.
LVY - Closing the wage gap for all women, especially Latinas, would be one of the greatest indicators of progress in our society. This would be a significant signal towards an environment where – regardless of gender - colleagues are working side by side on equal ground. I’m proud to work at a company that takes this issue seriously. MassMutual has been recognized by the National Association of Female Executives and Working Mother Magazine for our commitment to women, yet we know there is so much more to do. We participated in the Boston Women’s Workforce Council wage gap report because we strive to be best in class as an organization, and we firmly believe that transparency and accountability in this space will help us attract, develop and promote more talented women into leadership positions.
2. Why should companies do more to increase racial and gender diversity?
TDR - There is evidence showing that companies with diverse workforces achieve higher profits and productivity. So it makes sense for them from the perspective of margins as well as from a moral perspective, which would dictate we provide equal opportunities for people of all backgrounds. We also need to acknowledge the difficulties and work needed to overcome them. For example, evidence has also shown that even though diverse teams produce better outcomes all around, these teams report less satisfaction with the process and less confidence in their results than homogenous teams. In essence, being part of a diverse team means better results but it also means more discomfort! We need to grapple with this fact and learn how to work across difference. And we need to learn to enjoy the process! Organizations need to ask themselves how they can promote this process.Companies need to keep better data and be transparent with it in order to know the problem we are working on and come up with action items to really address it. They need to continue thinking about inclusion throughout all their operations, not just hiring but also retention, promotion, as well as supplier diversity. And they need to evolve continually as their workforce and customer bases do.
LVY - The country continues to become more diverse each day. For example, there are currently 57 million Hispanics in the U.S., and that figure is expected to more than double in the next 40 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At that time, Hispanics would be nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, compared to the 18 percent they are today. This is just one of the growing diverse markets we have in the country. Companies who want to drive innovation and growth need to understand the populations they are trying to reach – and that starts with ensuring your employees reflect the market. At MassMutual, we’re committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce because it leads to better decisions, innovations, and outcomes for our employees and our customers. We are holding ourselves accountable by increasing transparency across our organization on our diversity metrics as well as adding a diversity goal to our annual incentive metrics.
3. Do you think employers pay enough attention to the intersection of race and gender and how both have an impact on their female employees of color?
TDR - I think we tend to address women’s issues and race issues in a silo-ed way, failing to see the connections. For example, I sat through an event last night where three companies talked about what they are doing to increase race and gender diversity in their workforces. They mentioned mentoring, employee resource groups, tying performance reviews to diversity metrics and other interventions. However, they never mentioned the issue of paid parental leave. They view this as outside the realm of “diversity initiatives”. However, I believe paid parental leave would have tremendous effects on an organization’s success in retention of female and increasingly male employees who wish to play an active caretaking role at home. Why should this ‘not count’ as a diversity initiative? Female employees of color often have to surpass obstacles to success stemming from their racial and gender identities in unique ways. Organizations need to be cognizant of this provide ways for their employees to gain equal footing.
LVY - I think we all could do more to focus on the intersection of race and gender. The hurdles faced by women trying to succeed in a male-dominated work environment are compounded when you are also a person of color. It can be more difficult for females of color to secure sponsorships and mentorships, and cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings that result in women of color being passed over for development and leadership opportunities. Organizations need to understand where bias is hidden in their policies and practices, and actively develop women of color to assume leadership roles as well as make deliberate efforts to surface the discussion of hidden biases with leadership and employee education and training.
4. What is your organization doing to advance women of color in the workplace?
TDR - A unique feature of our workplace is that being funded by tax payers and accountable to them, we are transparent by default. At the City of Boston though, we go to great lengths to make sure we are not only transparent with our data but accessible to all. Our employee demographics, salary, and tenure data is readily available not only in a format friendly only to data scientists, but in a public-facing, friendly, easy to read dashboard with which anyone with a computer can interact. The figures on that dashboard serve as an easy way for us to identify departments where our pay gaps and our diversity statistics are lagging to prioritize the Diversity Team’s efforts. Also, it provides outside stakeholders the information necessary to continue to keep us accountable. We update Department Heads on their progress quarterly to ensure that we are being intentional and thoughtful about our hiring practices.We also spearhead the efforts to begin measuring and improving employee engagement, which is key to ensuring we can retain our diverse and talented employees. We are launching the first employee engagement survey in the City of Boston and we are only the second city that we know of in the country that has started Employee Resource Groups, including a City Hall Women’s Group. We have a lot further to go, and we know that, but we are taking important strides under Mayor Walsh and we are very proud of that.
LVY - As a company that is committed to the equal treatment and inclusion of all, we know that women, particularly women of color, continue to be woefully underrepresented in positions of power and our strategy seeks to reverse this trend over time. At MassMutual, we’re making progress, and we’ve seen an increase in women of color overall and in leadership roles during the last couple of years. Our leaders have completed an intensive learning lab experience where they explore unconscious bias, systemic advantage, and how to work effectively across difference. One area of focus in the lab is exploring and unpacking race and gender privilege. In addition, we are measuring our leadership’s cultural competence with the goal to improve over time. All of this work lays the foundation for leaders to understand diverse experiences and perspectives. Earlier this year, we conducted an external assessment of our Diversity & Inclusion and talent practices that has given us insight into our strengths and what steps we need to take to be more proactive and equitable in our approach. One of the solutions we are looking into is providing women and people of color with targeted development earlier in their career. We also have a Women’s Leadership Business Resource Group that is focused on pipeline development and developing aspiring female leaders. The group was historically focused on women in leadership and recently opened up membership to include women at all levels of the organization as well as men.
5. Research tells us that role models have a significant impact on what careers women choose and how they advance in those careers. Can you think of a Latina mentor you had at some point in your career, and how your relationship with her had a positive impact on you?
TDR - Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to meet a Latina mentor in my professional career. That is not to say they are not out there! There are plenty of Latina role models that I admire and have drawn from over the years. First and foremost would be my mother, who threw herself into raising four daughters and instilled in us the values that she staunchly stands for every single day of her life: honesty, hard work, defense of the less fortunate, and most importantly, love. I also admire people who are my peers and are doing incredible work. Among them I count my personal friends involved with the Dreamer movement. Finally, there are local Massachusetts leaders doing amazing legislative work on issues that matter, like State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz leading on criminal justice reform and State Representative Juana Matias leading on the Safe Communities Act. I celebrate their work and look forward to more representation like that in our state.
LVY - Diversity and inclusion has been my life’s work, and I chose this career based on my early experiences of exclusion. I believe that we are all connected and can learn and grow from each other. My career has taken me to both the East and West coasts, to lead diversity efforts at successful companies in diverse industries, and through it all, I’ve never had a Latina mentor. My mentors have been Asian and Black women and Latino, White and Black men. I think it would have been validating and inspiring to have a Latina mentor. If you take my career as a microcosm, it’s clear that we need more Latinas in positions of influence where they can groom the next generation of leaders, and I hope that one day we do get there.