Why Equal Pay Isn’t So Equal | Jennifer Brown

At JBC, we are mindful that August holds two very significant days for our work in creating greater gender equity and equality. While much progress has been made, now is also a time to reflect on just how much work remains to be done.

Achieving equity for women in the workplace has remained a challenge. Significant wage gaps between men and women persist—particularly for women of color. According to our partner organization, Women Employed, for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic White men:

·        White women earn 79 cents

·        Black women earn 63 cents

·        Native women earn 60 cents

·        Latina women earn 55 cents

·        AAPI women earn 85 cents—but in some cases as low as 50 cents

August 3 was Equal Pay Day for Black women. The day represents the number of additional days in a calendar year that Black women working full-time, year-round, must work to earn what White, non-Hispanic men earned in a year’s time. For Black women, this pay gap translates to a loss of nearly $1 million over a 40-year career, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

What’s worse, progress on closing the gender pay gap is slower today than it has been for over a decade. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, between 2009 and 2018, the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings changed less than one percent.

The mass departure of women from the workforce during the pandemic has serious implications for the gender parity gains that were gained pre-COVID. Black women in particular have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to the Department of Labor, Black women are overrepresented in low-paying service sector jobs, which were among the hardest hit by job losses.

August 26th, Women’s Equality Day, was another milestone marker for women’s progress. The date commemorates American women getting the constitutional right to vote with adoption of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920. The 19th Amendment helped millions of women move closer to equality in all aspects of American life. But the Amendment did not benefit all women equally. For example, Jim Crow laws kept most Black women and men from voting, and it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the right to vote was extended to all adult citizens.

Today voting rights are again under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws that disproportionately disenfranchise racial minorities, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, "Voter suppression tactics – from strict voter ID laws to discriminatory voter purges, limitations on voting hours, reductions in voting locations, and language barriers – are increasingly used to discourage and undermine women of color voters’ participation and potential influence on election outcomes."

Investing in equality for women of all races and ethnicities, ensuring equal rights, including the right to cast a ballot, and paying women equitable wages is an investment in families, communities, and the economic prosperity of the United States in the future. Consider that on average, women employed full-time in the United States lose a combined total of more than $956 billion every year due to the gender wage gap, according to the Bureau of Census.

If you are interested in learning more about equal paydays, download our full insight paper on the topic here: A Deeper Dive: Why #EqualPayDay Isn’t So Equal.

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