We are in the era of men going to space. In the era of 5G and electric cars. We are in the era of 3D bioprinting, neural interfacing and smart needles that detect cancer in only a few moments. Yet, women still earn significantly less than men. I find this incredibly unacceptable.
According to a new report from the United Nation, published on the occasion of Equal Pay Day, on average, full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. So women earn 23 cents less than men, whatever their job is. And this is only when we aggregate gender, without distinction of race or background, because when we add the color of our skin to the table the outcomes are even worse.
As reported by the American Association of University Women, and according to the U.S. Census, on average, Black women were paid only 63% of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2019. That means it takes the typical Black woman a total of 19 months to be paid what the average white man takes home in 12 months; resulting in a potential loss of more than $946,000 in earnings over the course of a 40-year career. That’s even worse than the national earnings ratio for all women, 83%. So basically Black women face a wider-than-average pay gap despite the fact that they participate in the work force at a much higher rate than most other women.
The rate of progress toward closing the gender pay gap did not increase in the past years. It remained stable in 2019 while 2020 exacerbated the difference between men and women all around. On its current trajectory, according to the World Economic Forum, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.
Although wage equality between genders and race is a fundamental principle for justice and equal treatment, the statistics show that there are still unaddressed gaps between men and women - even more if they are Black women - in terms of earnings, opportunities, and access to management positions.
This significant gap is not just a mere number to be read and forgotten - it has real life consequences. Wage discrimination harms women and their families both in the short and long term, as low wages also affect social insurance and pension levels. But it also has consequences for the whole of society. In fact, the government must pay more social assistance contributions and at the same time collect less tax revenues and social insurance contributions. The economy has a smaller reservoir of skilled labor due to the lack of a sufficient number of women on the labor market. Last but not least, wage discrimination creates a distortion of competition between companies and risks compromising social peace.
There are many social factors that contribute to the unequal balance between men and women in the world of work. Among those, the fact that on average, women do more hours of unpaid work, for example taking care of children or doing housework; or that almost a third of women work part-time, while only 8% of men work part-time. Furthermore, when both unpaid and paid work are taken into account, women are also more likely to have career breaks and to make professional decisions based on family care and responsibilities.
Women, and especially Black women, continue to be victims of outright discrimination in the workplace, which is reflected in lower pay compared to male colleagues, or white counterparts, who have the same qualifications or who work under the same conditions and in the same occupational categories. Women not only earn less per hour, but also do fewer hours of paid work and more unpaid work, as well as being more likely to be unemployed than men.
The pay and wealth disparities that Black women face affect not only individuals, but also the people around them. Since 80% of Black mothers are the sole, co-breadwinners or primary breadwinners for their households, a fair salary can mean the difference between struggling and sustainability for a family. Therefore, paying all workers fairly means more women can support their families while also contributing to the overall economy. True pay equity requires a multifaceted strategy that addresses both the gendered and racialised injustices that Black women encounter every day.
As much as this is a problem for Black women, it is really about all of us, regardless of race, creed, economic status, gender and so on. We all deserve to be paid equitably for the work that we do. This gap is unfair, unequal and simply put, illegal.
Reducing the gender pay gap leads to greater gender equity and, at the same time, promotes poverty reduction and economic growth. So equal pay is not just a matter of justice. It would also stimulate the economy as women could spend more. It would increase the tax base and lighten part of the burden on social security systems (valuations show that a one percentage point reduction in the gender pay gap would result in a 0.1% increase in gross domestic product). But we all have to do our part to help make that happen.
Recognizing the potential danger of latent stereotypes and understanding how to unhinge them is essential, for the people and for the institutions, to prevent the effects of its initiatives on different subjects from translating into results that are even opposite to those desired.
Written by Paige Trimbly