Miami still has work to do in battle to close its wage gaps

David A. Perez

Christopher Columbus High School

Maruta Mang, a 48-year veteran finance executive in the banking industry, is accustomed to receiving a smaller paycheck than her male colleagues.

Mang, 84, is a triple minority because she is a woman, an octogenarian and Asian. She also is emblematic of a recent study that says minority women make 60 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts.

“The expectations seem to be higher for women. It is a matter of building credibility,” said Mang, who is a firm believer that the wage gap has affected her, especially in the finance industry.

The study released this year on the wage gap showed that women overall earned 80 percent of their male counterparts for all industries. The wage gap was especially acute in the finance industry, said Maria Ilcheva, assistant director of planning and operations for Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center. Ilcheva authored the study.

However, there also is a significant disparity among races and age when it comes to salary. While many are unaware of how prevalent the gap actually is, others are feeling its drastic effects.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in Florida earn 87 cents for each dollar earned by a man. While this might not seem like a substantial difference, it results in a loss of $5,515 per year per female worker.

“If you read our report you’ll see that we tried to break down the data by industries and occupations, and it is precisely to show that the wage gap exists,” Ilcheva said.

Businesses need to change their salary structures, Ilcheva said.

“Unfortunately, business is mostly focused on profit,” she said. “For the majority of them, something needs to be regulated either from the federal government or at the local level in order for them to start making equality a priority.”

Luis de la Aguilera, CEO and president of U.S. Century Bank, says he is trying to improve his company’s equality profile, but admits there’s work to be done at the higher end of the scale..

“I have been in this industry for 38 years and yes there is a wage gap to be addressed. When I started in banking in 1982, there simply were few females in management or senior and executive roles,” De la Aguilera said.

Since being hired as CEO in 2015, De la Aguilera said he has been providing equal opportunities to all employees causing “a very good balance of female and male in all positions including executive senior officers.”

U.S. Century Bank has 181 employees, 62 men and 119 women. Women make up 65 percent of the workforce.

Ilcheva’s report also shows that race and age are prime factors in income inequality. About 25 percent of women of color earn less than $25,000 yearly, nearly 17 percent less than men. Hispanics and blacks are heavily affected by the wage gap as both groups have the largest poverty rate in Miami-Dade.

“A black female needs to work seven or eight months more to make as much as a white male,” Ilcheva said.

Additionally, people are working later and delaying retirement in order to maintain their lifestyle.

“It’s not an option, it’s not a luxury, it’s not a matter of choice. It’s a matter of survival,” Ilcheva said. About 50 percent of workers in their mid- and upper-60s do not retire because they need to keep working.

At U.S. Century Bank, workers are offered a “robust series of benefits including an employer match for a 401-K plan, health, dental, and life insurance.”

De la Aguilera believes that the industry is evolving everyday.

Mang, a member of City National Bank’s human resources team, is nearing 50 years in the finance industry.

“I am choosing to keep working as I find my work to be meaningful and satisfying,” she said.

Pressure on corporate bosses has narrowed the average wage gap for 19 percent.

“It is beautiful to see impact and to see these issues being solved,” Ilcheva said. “However, there is still work to be done.”