Women of color deserve equal pay, too

Women of color deserve equal pay, too
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When the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the FIFA World Cup title, our country seemed unified as we applauded them. When fans in the stands chanted, “Equal pay! Equal pay!,” even corporate America heeded the call. Proctor and Gamble called on the U.S. Soccer Federation to close the gender wage gap and donated more than a half-million dollars to make it happen. Suddenly, the nation is engaged in a discussion of pay equity.

While it’s great to have heightened awareness about this issue, it’s dangerous to have a cursory conversation that glosses over the gross inequities faced by women burdened with multiple oppressions. Pay equity is a real and persistent problem for all women, but it disproportionately impacts women of color, women living with disabilities, LGBTQ women and other women and people who face dual or multiple forms of discrimination. 

Today, women earn roughly 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. When you add race or ethnicity to the equation, women’s earnings compared to white men drop even more: African American women earn 61 cents, Native American women 58 cents, Latinas 53 cents and Asian American women 85 cents — with many Asian ethnicities earning far less, including Burmese women who are paid only 44 cents

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Workplace discrimination also takes many forms, which means women who find themselves at the intersections of various identities experience a myriad of other issues, especially in low-wage jobs. Their challenges include blatant illegal discrimination, such as sexual harassment or not hiring or promoting women, and more subtle forms of discrimination, such as stereotypes and subconscious biases that impact how we treat and perceive women’s work. 

The "good ol’ boys club" mentality often leads to more mentoring and career development opportunities for men. The system is rigged so that men, especially white men, get the support and resources they need to succeed.

There also are workplace policies that have not kept up with America’s families. On average, two out of three women of color are sole or equal breadwinners in their families. Women disproportionately shoulder the work at home, spending more time on household chores and child care than men. Despite our significant contributions to not only the workplace but our families, many employers fail to provide family-friendly policies such as sick time, family leave and flex time. 

These disparities persist, in part, because women of color are often a secondary thought in our conversations and subsequent advocacy, whether it’s pay equity or reproductive access. So, as we lift up the issue of equal pay, let’s shine the brightest light on the women in our community who face the greatest hurdles. 

To be sure, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team deserves equal pay, and more, for their outstanding accomplishments on and off the field. When it comes to leveling the playing field for the rest of America, however, we need to push for solutions that leave no one behind. It’s long past time to make pay equity a reality, by ensuring qualified women and people of color share equal opportunities in the workplace. 

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Hats off to Proctor and Gamble for supporting women on the field. We encourage them and other companies to balance their boards with more women members — women and minorities held 34 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies in 2018, a Deloitte study found — and to work on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Congress should act, too. Women and people of color are more likely to have minimum wage jobs. It’s time to pass the Raise the Wage Act, to raise the federal minimum wage. Congress also needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, to address pay discrimination head-on.

Leng Leng Chancey is the executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, a membership organization dedicated to putting working women’s issues on the public agenda. Follow her on Twitter at @lenglengC.

Note: This article was updated to reflect a change in statistics cited.