New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that, between 2018 and 2019, no progress was made on closing the overall wage gender gap, with the average full-time working woman still earning just $0.82 for every dollar earned by men.
When broken down racially, White women's pay gap remained unchanged at $0.79 for every dollar earned by White men, while Asian women's pay gap widened from $0.90 to $0.87, according to an analysis from the National Women's Law Center. Native American women and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women saw their pay gaps close slightly from $0.57 and $0.61 in 2018, to $0.60 and $0.63, respectively, in 2019.
For Black women and Latinas, NWLC reports that the pay gap closed by just one penny, moving from $0.62 and $0.54 in 2018 to $0.63 and $0.55, respectively, in 2019.
"It's outrageous that Black women and Latinas only scored a single penny raise last year," Emily Martin, VP for education and workplace justice at NWLC, said in a statement. "At this moment of a pandemic and a recession, it's especially bitter news for these women who are shortchanged the most."
Martin points out that more than one in three Black women are on the front lines of today's pandemic, but they are robbed of thousands of dollars each year due to the wage gap. "And over a 40-year career, many women of color stand to lose more than a million dollars."
When looking at the breakdown of pay, Black women are at risk of losing $941,600 in wages over a 40-year career due to the pay gap, while Native American women and Latinas are at risk of losing over $1 million, according to NWLC data. Women overall stand to lose more than $400,000 over a 40-year career.
"Imagine if those lost wages were available to them now," says Martin. "This is life-changing money — and women and their families can't afford inaction on equal pay any longer."
Today, roughly 41% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their family, meaning that a woman's salary is essential to meeting the needs of those closest to her. Kimberly Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, says that while these numbers are bad right now, it's likely that they will get even worse due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Women have been disproportionately affected by furloughs and unemployment during the pandemic, largely because so many hold jobs in the industries that have shrunk amidst the pandemic," she said in a statement. "Women of color have been especially hard hit, confronting the cascading effects of both economic and health insecurity."
Since February 2020, women have lost over 6.1 million jobs, according to NWLC. This accounts for more than half of the overall job losses since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
"What's more," adds Churches, "the challenges of care taking — exacerbated by virtual schooling, closed day-care centers and isolated seniors — have taken a significant toll on women's careers." Due to these overwhelming demands, roughly 17% of working moms have quit their job during the pandemic, compared to 10% of working dads, according to a survey from career website FlexJobs.
To ensure that women aren't left behind in the pandemic's economic recovery, Churches says there needs to be a greater push for laws and policies that enforce salary transparency at both public and private companies to help equalize pay between men and women. Additionally, she says there needs to be a greater push for universal paid sick and caregiving leave for all employees so that women aren't forced to choose between their family and work.
"The events of 2020 have made it painfully obvious that we need to accelerate our work on behalf of American women, particularly women of color," she says, while adding that now is a critical time to "forge ahead in the movement for equity."