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The Color of Money — For WOC Equal Pay Day Is Still Distant

By March 16, 2022General
The Color of Money — For WOC Equal Pay Day Is Still Distant

It’s human nature to attach self-worth to your earning capacity. Not to command what you believe is comparable to your talent and effort is to feel belittled, unable to negotiate formidably, unempowered.

But labor analysts predict that Black women will close the pay gap with white men (sometimes referred to as “non-Hispanic white men” or “men in their own ethnic or racial group”) only in the year 2133; Hispanic women not until 2220. That’s 111 years and 198 years from now, respectively.

Women of color — WOC, who make up an enormous sector of the American workforce, frequently in roles of hospitality, healthcare and social services  —  are consistently valued less and paid far less than white women and Asian women, compared to their male counterparts.

Equal Pay Day designates how far into a new year an average woman must work to match an average man’s earnings from the prior year. March 15, 2022, is the earliest Americans have ever marked the occasion. Last year Equal Pay Day (again, for average women) was reached March 24, a gain of nine days. At face value, this looks promising but the numbers aren’t exactly transparent.

It’s true: “The earlier Equal Pay Day arrives, the closer our Nation has come

to achieving pay fairness,” President Biden said in a White House statement released March 14. “But while we should celebrate the progress we have made, we should not be satisfied until Equal Pay Day is no longer necessary at all.”

This perspective is borne out most apparently in the case of WOC. The gender pay gap is far wider for these women than for overall women’s-to-men’s earnings among fulltime, year-round workers, per the National Women’s Law Center  — for the record, 83 cents for every $1 earned by white men or men in their own racial/ethnic group). Notice all the qualifiers here and in the next paragraph, too.

Forbes reported for year 2021 that all women who worked with all men who worked — regardless of how many hours or weeks they worked — were overall typically paid73 cents for every $1 paid to men — with a widening gap for women of color. For example, according to Forbes, overall Black women were typically paid 69 cents and overall Latinas  and Native American women typically 57 cents comparedto an overall “white” man’s $1.

  • The February 2022 jobs report reflects an improvement in U.S. labor recovery, with the exception of Black women.
  • The unemployment rate for Black women ticked up to 6.1% in February from 5.8% in January.
  • The unemployment rate for  was 6.1% in February, twice that of white and Asian Americans.

For Latinas in 2021, the ratio was 49 cents (unchanged from 2020). But this year, Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day won’t come to pass until December 8, 2022.. Native American women earned 60 cents in 2020 (10 cents more than now) and Asian women (and men) are topping men at $1.01, proving in the strictest sense that white male supremacy is surmountable.

Also, in February 2022, more than one million fewer women were in the overall labor force than at the start of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with men having fully recovered their losses since the pandemic).

The February 2022 figures account only for women who stayed in the workforce fulltime, not counting the financial impact for millions of women who lost their jobs or were pushed out of the workforce when they had no alternative childcare or faced other Covid-related hurdles. Many of these were underpaid before the pandemic — or transitioning to part-time positions, causing the overall median earnings to rise for women who remained in fulltime positions.

“It is important for us to also look at all workers,” says Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the National Women’s Law Center. “If you lost your job, if you were forced into part-time work because you were a retail or restaurant worker and didn’t have as many hours, the wage gap is much wider.”

Too little acknowledgement has been paid to consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for women of color, even as the consequences continue playing out in spring 2022. On top of the pay gap, current disparities further undermine WOC’s families’ economic stability, survival and capacity to stash savings.