By Raquel Reichard, Yahoo! Finance
Once a year, America acknowledges the egregious pay gap in which Latinas earn just 67 cents for every dollar a non-Latinx white man makes. It’s time we interrogate this fact year-round. The L-Suite examines the diverse ways in which Latinx professionals have built their careers, how they’ve navigated notoriously disruptive roadblocks, and how they’re attempting to dismantle these obstacles for the rest of their communities.
This month, we’re talking with MSNBC news anchor and creator of the Latina to Latina podcast Alicia Menendez about how succumbing to the pressure to be “likable” at work can sometimes work against Latinas.
Journalism has an inclusion problem. In local and national newsrooms across the U.S., Latinas are underrepresented as reporters, editors, and producers. According to a study by the Women’s Media Center, the demographic makes up just 2.4 percent of the news media workforce — and despite efforts at improving diversity and inclusivity across the American workforce, the problem might actually be worsening in this sector. The American Society of News Editors Newsroom Employment Diversity surveys show that the tally of women journalists of color has barely budged since 2016. When it moves, it’s often in a downward direction, as the industry is losing Latina, Black, Asian, and Native women’s voices. The root of the problem is twofold: Newsrooms are less likely to hire Latinas, especially for leadership positions, while many in the workforce quit the industry due to salary disparities and minimal opportunities for career advancement.
Alicia Menendez has witnessed these losses up close. Prior to anchoring MSNBC’s weekend news program American Voices, the Cuban-American journalist worked across a gamut of mediums, including television, digital media, and podcasts, where she witnessed women of color who were talented but lacking in support leaving their roles in media, often for jobs in more stable industries. Her experience mentoring emerging Latina journalists as well as interviewing women about their professional struggles and triumphs on her podcast Latina to Latina has led to her intimate understanding of the barriers, inequities, and microaggressions that push talented women out of newsrooms. In many ways, it is precisely these stories that propel her to stay in the industry.
“The truest thing I can say is I just refuse to go away,” Menendez, 38, tells Refinery29. “At some point, there is always the question of ‘Is this the moment where I opt out?’ But as someone who feels that this is a call to service, it is hard for me to imagine an alternate path that has comparable impact.”
For Menendez, inclusive and nuanced news coverage requires diverse newsrooms. To sustain herself in the industry, she has developed creative methods that she imparts with other women of color in journalism. From breaking free of the likeability trap to creating her own media, Menendez shares her story and offers advice for Latinas passionate but disillusioned by the work.
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