Closing The Gap

Reminder: Today isn't Equal Pay Day for all women

@criene via Twenty20

This year, April 2 marks Equal Pay Day, the time a woman has to work into the new year to symbolically achieve the same pay a man earned the previous year.

Working an additional four months to receive equal pay sounds absurd, but consider this reality: For African-American women, Equal Pay Day won't be recognized until August 22. For Native American and Latina women, Equal Pay Day won't be recognized until September 23 and November 20.

Asian-American and Pacific Islander women reached Equal Pay Day on March 5, but massive pay gaps persist between subgroups. White women will wait a few days after April 2 for their Equal Pay Day to be recognized on April 19.

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Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, says that Equal Pay Day is a date that has been marked by The National Committee on Pay Equity since 1996 and it marks the wages of all women working full-time to all men working full-time. The date, she says, is always on a Tuesday because that is approximately "how far into the week women work to catch up to men."

"The other Equal Pay Days are determined somewhat differently," she tells CNBC Make It. "These dates compare the wages of all women working full-time who are of a particular race or ethnicity to all men working full-time who are white, non-Hispanic. Because non-Hispanic white men are the largest and most advantaged demographic group in the labor force, they are often used as a benchmark for the earnings of women of different races and ethnicities."

As it stands, black women earn $0.61 for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts. Native American women earn $0.58 to every dollar, and Latina women earn $0.53. Meanwhile, white women and Asian women earn $0.77 and $0.85, respectively.

"There are a lot of reasons why this gap remains," Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told CNBC Make It last year, "and there is certainly room for some of that to be discrimination."

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Though women earn college degrees at a higher rate than men do, research shows that more women, especially women of color, are still stuck in low-paying jobs. According to the National Women's Law Center, women of color account for 17 percent of the overall workforce, but make up 33 percent of some of the fastest-growing low-wage jobs like retail, fast food, personal care aides and home health aides. This means that women of color are over-represented in jobs that pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The disparity is even greater for African-American women, whose share of the fastest-growing low-wage jobs is 2.6 times their share of the overall workforce. "In general, there are things firms can do and the government can do, like raising minimum wage and improving discrimination policies," says Gould.

Research shows that white job applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than equally qualified African-Americans, and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos. A poll by NPR found that one-third of Native Americans say they have experienced discrimination when looking for a job, getting a promotion or earning equal pay.

Lisa Crooms-Robinson, Professor of Law & Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Howard University, says that much of this discrimination and unfair treatment can be linked to women of color being locked out of leadership and decision-making positions. A 2018 report shows that less than 1 percent of Silicon Valley tech leadership positions are held by Latinx women, and less than 0.5 percent are held by black women.

There are a lot of reasons why this gap remains, and there is certainly room for some of that to be discrimination.
Elise Gould
senior economist, Economic Policy Institute

Just 27 of the CEOs of the companies on the Fortune 500 are women. Since Ursula Burns left Xerox and Geisha Williams left PG&E, none of those 27 spots are held by black or Latina women.

"For most organizations, this would require a shift that goes beyond diversity committees and affinity groups," says Crooms-Robinson about creating professional cultures in which women of color are hired, promoted and treated equally. "Committed organizational leadership at the very highest level is essential to make such a significant culture shift."

Emily Martin, General Counsel and Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at the National Women's Law Center, says that in order for the pay gap to close for women of color, individuals in positions of power need to be aware of the role they play when it comes to enforcing workplace bias.

"I think part of it is [people] really engaging in self-examination," she says. "The thing about implicit and unconscious bias is you may really not be aware that you are discounting individual experiences and expertise based on characteristics like race and gender."

She says one solution to fixing the problem is for employers to not look at gender and racial bias as two completely different issues.

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Crooms-Robinson says that to truly underscore the urgency of the gap represented on Equal Pay Day, the occasion shouldn't be marked until November, which is the time that women of all races will have finally reached pay equity.

"If Equal Pay Day was celebrated [in] November, when all women have earned as much as white men earned in [2018], then Latinas, not 'average' women, are the standard by which the pay gap is measured," she says. "This allows us to tell a different and more inclusive story about women, work and wages than the story we tell by celebrating Equal Pay Day [months] before all women actually earn as much as white men earned the year before."

This is a revised version of a previously published post.

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