April 4, 2017 marks the day when women ”catch up” to the wages earned by white men in 2016. Women still earn, on average, just 80 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. From this number, it is obvious that an embarrassing pay inequity exists between women and men in the United States. What’s not obvious is the way this inequity is magnified for women of color.
When the numbers are broken down by race, the wage gap expands for many women of color. White women and Asian women are paid just 75% and 85% of what white men do, respectively. But African-American women receive just 63% of what white men do; and Latinas face even bigger disadvantages, at 54%.
Over a lifetime, the consequences of this gender-race wage gap are severe. Lower lifetime earnings prevents women from saving for retirement, and reduces the Social Security benefits they receive. The larger the gap, the larger the price a woman pays at the end of her working years.
This Equal Pay Day is a reminder that we need to get real about policies that will close the gender-race wage gap. Women make up two thirds of low-wage workers–like home health aides, child care workers, and restaurant servers–so it is imperative that we make the minimum wage a living wage. Adequate family leave policies and expanded access to affordable child care are critical pieces of the puzzle as well.
But we need to fight for these policies beyond April 4. NOW will observe all of the remaining 2017 Equal Pay Days listed below, remembering the unique disadvantages women of color face. And we will continue fighting every day for common-sense policies to protect women workers.
African-American Women: July 31, 2017
Native American Women: September 25, 2017
Latinas: November 2, 2017