Women’s Equality Day was created back in 1973 to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment, which established the right of all American women to vote. Except… that’s not exactly what it did. The reality is that many women of color had to wait decades before they could cast a ballot—which is why this is also the perfect day to point out just how much work is left to be done before true equality is achieved.
This Women’s Equality Day, we’re following the money. Nowhere is inequality more plain to see than in the gender pay gap—the difference between what women and men earn. Women in this country make only 82 cents for every dollar made by a man. And the gap is even wider for most women of color.
This has to change. Join us in calling for pay equity today!
What Is the Gender Pay Gap?
The gender pay gap is figured out by comparing the median annual earnings for women working full-time all year long to the earnings of men doing the same. Regardless of industry, their level of education, or where they live, women earn less and have been earning less for a long time.
- Sexism, discrimination, harassment, and bias: Somehow in 2020 the concepts of “women’s work” and “men’s work” still exist. In fact, so-called gender norms remain so powerful that many lower-paying professions like home healthcare and childcare are held almost entirely by women. And women in “men’s jobs” often face harassment and other barriers to advancement.
- The labor of raising children...: Women remain the primary caregivers for children, so they leave the workforce more often than men—and stay away for longer.
- ...and taking care of families: Women also still take on a larger share of the care responsibilities for extended family (elderly parents and kin, for example)—unpaid work that impacts what kind of paid work they can do. This leads women to work fewer paid hours than men and creates what is known as the “motherhood penalty.”
- A lack of comprehensive health insurance and family leave: Women would have greater opportunities for paid work and advancing their careers if this country had a stronger social safety net and enacted policies that truly provide for the needs of women and their families (which is all of us!).
Women in this country lose a combined total of almost one trillion dollars every year due to the gender pay gap. And the deeper you dig into the numbers, the clearer it becomes that women of color are hit the hardest.
A Wider Gap for Women of Color
Equal Pay Day marks the day each year when women finally earn the same amount that men earned during the previous year. If men and women were paid equally, Equal Pay Day would be December 31. But it’s not. Since women, overall, earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, Equal Pay Day was March 31 this year. But for Black women it was August 13. For Native American women it’s October 1. And for Latinx women, it’s October 29.
If we break down women’s earnings by race/ethnicity (compared to what a non-Hispanic white man makes), the inequality is stark:
- Asian women: 90 cents (Many Asian women earn FAR less: find out more here)
- White women: 79 cents
- Black women: 62 cents
- Native American women: 57 cents
- Latinx women: 54 cents
Women of color are already starting from a place of drastically lower average family wealth, so this disparity is particularly crushing. More than 80% of Black mothers, for example, are key breadwinners for their families. And more than 25% of the 4 million American households headed by Black women are living with incomes that put them below the poverty line.
Systemic racism and white supremacy play a huge role in maintaining the pay gap, and the pandemic is making it even worse. Black women and other women of color are more likely to work low-wage, “essential” jobs, so they’re more at risk of getting sick. And they’re also at a greater risk of getting laid off: One in seven Black women is unemployed, according to July’s jobs report.
Black women essential workers, of course, are being significantly underpaid. But so are Black women doctors, nurses, and teachers. They make 11%-27% less than white men doing the same jobs.
Closing the Gap
Studies have shown that opening our economy to those it has not traditionally served benefits all of us. Why isn’t this something we’d want to do? Closing the pay gap would certainly benefit women, who could use the significant earnings they miss out on every year and across their lifetimes to better support themselves and their families.
But beyond that, it would mean that we as a country finally value the work that women do. It would mean ending systemic sexism and racism, showing zero tolerance for discrimination, misogyny, and harassment, and enacting policies that would raise the minimum wage, provide affordable, high-quality childcare, and provide paid family leave and sick leave.
Women overwhelmingly support policies that would close the gender pay gap and strengthen equal pay laws. We do too.