Let’s say you are a woman and make $45,000 a year.
Your colleague who has had the same education, same years of experience and the same level of a position as you makes $55,000.
The only difference is he happens to be a white male.
How does that make you feel? You might be alarmed to think you are valued as “less than” or maybe rush to defend them, thinking they have some sort of job duty that justifies the pay bump.
This is a feeling many women and non-binary people across the U.S. have on a daily basis. Feelings of low self-worth, doubt, and powerlessness.
Society then turns around and tells you it is because you don’t negotiate, you aren’t in the room with the “boys club” enough, you need to network more, and so on. Or worse, that it doesn’t exist and you are overreacting.
Well, you aren’t overreacting. The gender pay gap is very much real and goes much further than women, especially just white women.
Who is all affected by the gender pay gap?
The example above of a $45,000 a year salary vs. a $55,000 a year salary was to illustrate that woman in the United States are paid 82 cents for every dollar a man makes which equates to $10,194 (taken from The National Partnership for Women & Families Fact Sheet and I rounded down for the whole numbers of $45,000 vs $55,000).
This is the number that is thrown around everywhere online, on social media, and on Women’s Equal Pay Day that is on April 2nd every year: $0.82 (there are also many variations like you might see $0.79 cents or $0.80 cents as well). However, that number excludes several groups of women, separates us from each other with different “Equal Pay Days” for each group, and gets us nowhere towards a true equal pay goal.
There are many gender pay gaps outside of the most referred to number for white women, including the following:
- Black women are paid 62 cents for every dollar a white man makes
- Native American women are paid 57 cents
- Latinas are paid 54 cents
- Asian women are paid 90 cents
What’s with all the different Equal Pay Days every year?
Every year there are several dates for “Equal Pay Day” but for different groups. This is to illustrate the actual time it would take each group to catch up to what they would make if they were a white man.
For instance, Latina Equal Pay Day is October 29th. It falls on the 10th month to show that it would take Latinas a total of 22 months to make what a white non-Latino man makes in 12 months.
Let’s Go Deeper
Even the above figures continue to exclude. There is no concrete data to show the gap for non-binary, transgender, and genderqueer people because they’ve been mostly excluded from a lot of the data gatherings in existing reports and fact sheets.
We do have a couple of alarming facts that would point us in the direction of these overlooked groups when it comes to pay inequality. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey shows 15% of transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer people earn under $10,000 a year and live below the poverty line. The numbers rise to a staggering 28 percent for Latinx and 34 percent for Black transgender and genderqueer people.
There is no Equal Pay Day to recognize these groups.
Further Context & Covid Times
Data is great and all, until it’s not. You have to remember when reading ANY reports online about this particular subject that the data you are looking at is only as good as the data that was gathered and entered. Figuring that it was gathered and entered correctly.
The pay gap gets even wider when we look at how the initial act of women and other genders being paid less trickles down over their lives. They are able to contribute less to retirement and other assets and therefore, struggle much more when trying to create true generational wealth.
But this isn’t only about women. There are other genders and groups that are completely overlooked and excluded from this entire conversation. These are the groups that struggle to get the job in the first place to be able to work towards equal pay.
Then when you factor in – you guessed it – a global pandemic, things get even more hairy.
Due to Covid, 1 in 4 women is considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. This is because of the caregiving crisis families are being faced with when schools and daycares are closed and they are being forced to become full-time homeschool teachers. The way our system is set up, they don’t have much of a choice.
And the gap widens.
A Path Towards Closing The Gap
The pay gap exists regardless of industry, occupation, and education level but there is a path forward.
There is the existing Equal Pay Act of 1963 but experts still warn women will not reach equal pay until 2059 (which will most likely not happen with the current conditions and severe lack of data). We must also remember this isn’t only about women.
To help put more fair pay and protections for these groups on the table, start with your local community. Contact your local congressman/congresswoman and state representatives (google who would be that in your state and call/email them about what they are doing about equal pay.)
Even though it might be a little different state to state, we also have to look at this on a federal level. Push for federal funding for agencies to investigate and enforce equal pay when calling your local representatives.
But that isn’t the end of it. There are many moving parts here like the need to raise the minimum wage, stricter workplace protections against harassment, family-friendly workplace standards, reproductive healthcare, healthcare in general, hiring standards with non-binary, genderqueer, and transgender people, etc.
But you know what? It starts with us. If you and I start today, that’s two people. If both of us force a family member or friend to do it with us, that is two more. And so on.
You can also urge your employer to regularly audit their compensation data and ensure they are paying their employees fairly and equally. Join employee resource groups (ERGs) at your company where you can openly discuss, share salary information, and tell your story.
Look to any other diversity and inclusion groups that work with HR partners to help enforce fair hiring policies as well.
There is a path, even if it is a foggy path, and I’m ready to move forward.