Today is Equal Pay Day, a day that commemorates how much more extra time women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Women make 82 cents for every dollar men make, a wage gap that’s been stubbornly persistent since the 2000s, despite progress in the 1980s and 1990s (USA Today).
It means the average woman loses more than $10,000 yearly to pay discrimination. Or, if you’re looking at a 9-5 workday, the average woman starts working for free at 2:40 pm (Equal Rights). In fact, the pay gap between top women executives and their male counterparts at the nation’s largest companies widened in 2020 (USA Today).
• Support legislation to increase the minimum wage, including the Fight for 15 campaign.
• Talk about pay with your friends, family, and colleagues. Normalizing these conversations helps to reduce the stigma and encourage others to take the same actions in the workplace.
• Promote marginalized women-owned companies and contractors at your organization. Bring them on as vendors and partners, and shop from them when you can.
But pay inequity is more nuanced when considering other identities, including race. Women of color earn considerably less than white women. Since white women are paid closer to what white men are than women of color, looking at pay disparities without considering race can disguise how uneven the playing field is. Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) women would have to work until May 3 to catch up with the average white man’s earnings from 2021 because they’re paid only 75 cents per $1 to white men. For Black women, it’s Sept. 29, at 57 cents; for Native and Indigenous women, it’s Dec. 1, at 50 cents; and Latina women are paid the least, an abysmal 49 cents per $1 to the average white man (Equal Rights). Ableism plays a role, too: the median pay for disabled women is 72 cents for every dollar a disabled man earns, and disabled people generally earn only 68 cents for every dollar a non-disabled person earns. And age matters—the wage gap increases for older women and men (USA Today). Trans and gender nonconforming people are among the lowest-paid population of those working in full-time roles (The 19th).
This is why any women’s rights movement must acknowledge how compounding marginalized identities limit access and opportunity. It also reflects why advocates urge that we center the stories of those most marginalized in our fight for gender justice, not just lumping everyone into a group. When we do so, we run the risk of increasing opportunities only for those closest to the dominant culture, leaving more marginalized people further behind.
A broad range of social justice issues contributes to the gender pay gap. Many start with outdated and tired notions of what roles women and men are designed to play in society. But others are rooted in the way we value certain types of labor. Women, especially women of color, are overrepresented in lower-wage jobs. Men, of course, are most likely to work in the top 20 highest-paying jobs in the nation. This phenomenon is called “occupational segregation.” It should encourage us to think beyond the boardroom and white-collar industries to advocate for fair pay in the workplace (CNBC).
Many would point to historical gender disparities in pursuing and obtaining degrees through higher education. And the decades-long movement for affirmative action helped to bring more women (especially white women, ironically) to the workplace. But education alone won’t level the playing field. The pay gap is just as stubborn for college-educated women as it is for women who don’t have a college degree (USA Today).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the movement, remember there are plenty of places to start. Simply talking about pay with your family and friends can help to dismantle any myths about pay. As pay transparency legislation grows across the nation, more companies and states will follow suit. You can also advocate for low-wage workers wherever you live, which will help both the gender pay gap and ensure that all workers find more security and safety.
• Today is Equal Pay Day, a day that commemorates how much more extra time women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
• Currently, women make 82 cents for every dollar men make – and the wage gap worsens for women of color, disabled women, and trans and gender nonconforming workers.
• The path towards gender pay equity requires us to center those most marginalized and advocate across social justice issues.