On Equal Pay Day, Remember Women of Color

By Amanda Reed, Communications Intern

April 9 is Equal Pay Day–a reminder that women workers still make less than their male counterparts. Around this time of year, my university’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance usually holds a Pay Equity Bake Sale to highlight the wage disparities between men and women. The price of each baked good varies by customer to reflect the wage gap. In the United States, women make about $0.77 for every $1 earned by male colleagues; therefore, female students pay $0.77 for a brownie while male students pay $1. Some people love this event, others hate it. What I have always liked about the bake sale is that it not only reflects wage differences between sexes, but races as well.

The gender wage gap has a negative impact on white women, depriving them of an average of $11,000 in pay a year. For women of color this impact is much worse. African American women make only $0.64 of every $1 earned by white, non-Hispanic men; Hispanic women only make $0.55 of every $1. According to an analysis by the National Partnership for Women and Families, that adds up to $18,817 and $23,298 in annual lost wages, on average. That’s equivalent to 118 weeks’ worth of food and 4,549 gallons of gasoline for African American women and 154 weeks’ worth of food and 5,743 gallons of gasoline for Latina women. A few different factors may be behind the wider wage gap for women of color. Women of color are more likely than white women to work in the service industry and hold low-wage jobs with few to no benefits and advancement opportunities. They may find themselves underrepresented in management positions, creating another barrier for advancement.

Critics of the wage gap often chalk these differences up to life choices, such as leaving work to become mothers or working in female-dominated fields with lower pay. These arguments do not consider the years of discrimination that has encouraged women to occupy lower-paying fields, all the while juggling work and family responsibilities. It also disregards other factors that keep women in lower-wage positions, such as varied levels of access to education. The wage gap is a continuation of race and gender discrimination, regardless of whether women “choose” part-time or minimum wage jobs.

On this Equal Pay Day, remember to speak up about the wage gap. Whether you are tweeting, blogging, talking to friends or explaining the logic behind your cupcake prices, don’t forget to talk about race as well as gender. We are all in this fight together. If we want to reach pay equity, we need to focus on all women.

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