Mujeres Latinas en Acción Makes Strides in Addressing Latina Pay Equity

Mujeres Latinas en Acción is a Chicago-based organization that was founded in 1973 and is the longest-standing Latina-led organization in the nation. They are a lean organization serving a high number of Latinas and their families through six programs.

MLEA’s robust programmatic offerings center on community services that empower Latinas and their families. These six programs provide the Latina//o/e community with access to healing and prevention related to domestic abuse, support for healing and prevention related to domestic violence, sexual violence, entrepreneurship, parent support, Latina leadership, and community engagement and mobilization. 


Mujeres Latinas en Acción came to Edgility for guidance in determining a way to make pay equity possible for their staff members; this would be the first pay equity study that the organization had ever undertaken. While they had a solid organizational culture in place which has enabled them to successfully retain staff, their leader, President and CEO Linda X. Tortolero, knew they needed a more robust compensation model with clear and transparent job levels and metrics for range placement and salary growth.

Edgility Consulting Associate Partner Ila Shah led the study with the following goals:

  • Revise pay grades to more accurately reflect their organizational structure
  • Ensure that all job levels had consistent and clear opportunities for growth
  • Account for job-specific certifications in the salary tables


Edgility got to work by first analyzing the functionality of MLEA’s current talent management program. We learned that while culture and mission orientation is strong, staff had a strong desire for clarity around the compensation program. 

Mujeres’ programmatic offerings are unique and require specific positions to support the organization’s goals. These positions bring in talent with different skill sets and levels of certifications. Ila’s team worked closely with the leadership group at MLEA to understand the distinctive roles, and the needs around compensation, but Edgility’s unique ability to understand the cultural significance of discussing compensation made the process even more meaningful.

“Working with a diverse team of women from Edgility was essential for the task before us.  As a leader of a women’s organization, it’s critical to work with individuals who represent our employees and understand the challenges they experience.”

– Linda X. Tortolero, President & CEO Mujeres Latinas en Acción

For Mujeres Latinas en Acción, adjusting salaries meant something bigger than just desiring to improve their compensation program. As many may know, the pay gap between Latina women and white men is huge. In fact, a study by Unidos US stated that “Latinas in the United States are typically paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.” Tortolero acknowledged the high value and excellent skills that Latina/o/e counselors, therapists and advocates bring to the work (being bilingual, culturally competent, etc.) and how vital it is to lift the community they serve. Yet, they are not being properly compensated across the sector. 

A new structure was crucial to account for their administrative staff and their licensed and non-licensed clinicians and program advocates. Ila’s team helped MLEA make salary decisions to align with Mujeres’ core values and prioritized adjustments for entry-level employees first to ensure they received a living wage. The organization also chose to utilize manager calibrations (a performance assessment tool) to conduct range placements. Tortelero shared that “the scenario planning tool and the manager toolkit were unexpected benefits which guided leadership in placing employees in the proper range placement.” 


As a result of the pay equity study run by Edgility, Mujeres Latinas en Acción adopted a new compensation structure that prioritizes internal equity while acknowledging market rates and offering transparency to staff around opportunities for growth. With greater transparency about their salary structure, employees are able to make educated decisions about what growth looks like at the organization for them.  This level of transparency “holds us accountable to make sure that new positions abide by the pay scales, job levels, and role definitions we have created. [We] reflected on the duties, skills, and experiences required of each of our positions, [and] had to consider carefully why certain job roles required specific responsibilities and experiences and how to articulate them.  Providing that context to our staff is extremely important and fosters consistency and fairness,” Tortolero remarked.

Addressing and improving their compensation structure enabled Mujeres Latinas en Acción to combat the Latina pay gap and ensure their staff is paid competitively, and appropriately. Armed with a strong salary structure to support its staff, this long-standing community organization can confidently attract, hire, and retain talent to continue the important work they do for Latinas and their families in Chicago. 

Ila Shah

Meet the expert:

Ila Shah

Associate Partner

  • Performance Management & Career Pathways
  • Organizational Structure
  • Compensation Studies

“I worked with students who were first generation like myself, but they had varying degrees of access and support. I experienced firsthand the implications that would have on their lives and knew then that I would dedicate my career to equal access and opportunity efforts within the educational sector.”


Put your values to work. Act on equity.

We believe equity isn’t a box to check. It’s a daily action. Someone’s unique identity isn’t something to overcome–when paired with the right opportunity, it becomes one of their greatest professional assets. We exist to empower social impact organizations to recognize and overcome unconscious bias, racism and sexism so they can build a workforce that reflects and strengthens the communities they serve.