It’s Complicated, but Tackling the Gender Wage Gap Together Is Critical

Cross-posted on Monica Ramirez’s Medium page.

We recently learned of the conversation on Twitter about the wage gap for Black Women and Latinas. It’s not often that the issue of equal pay breaks through and we are grateful to Gina Rodriguez, Gabrielle Union, Ellen Pompeo and Emma Roberts for their conversation — it was honest, funny, tough and a reminder that the pay gap shows up in every setting. As longtime equal pay advocates, we are writing to add some key facts to the conversation.

During the discussion, Gina Rodriguez named that the wage gap is widest for Latinas — a fact that is likely front of mind given that we just marked Latina Equal Pay Day in November. In 2017, women working full time year-round were typically paid 80 cents for every dollar paid men. Asian women were typically paid 85 cents, White women were paid 77 cents, Black women were paid 61 cents, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women were paid 59 cents, American Indian and Alaska Native women were paid 57 cents and Latinas were paid 53 cents for every dollar paid white, non-Hispanic men. These statistics are based on median wages for full time workers in all fields, but no matter the industry, job, or location, a wage gap persists between women and men. The gap is worse, on average, for women of color. The entertainment industry is no different.

Even as we are finally beginning to discuss the pay experiences of all women and different groups of women of color, rarely is there a discussion of the experiences of trans women, undocumented women, and women with disabilities. Their wage gap and employment experiences are often far worse than nearly everyone else and the data available is far too limited.

Of course, all of this is beside the point. We don’t disaggregate figures to create teams or rivalries, among women or even between women and men. We do so because it is important to understand the experiences of working women across race and other identities so that we can develop meaningful solutions to address existing disparities. And, we, the collective “we” — policy advocates, employers, elected officials, thought-leaders, influencers, every day people, and voters — have a lot of work to do.

We can start by:

1) Passing state and federal legislative agendas that promote women’s and family economic security, including strengthening equal pay, equal employment, and anti-harassment protections, providing paid leave, raising the minimum wage and protecting the right to organize;

2) Pushing employers to take steps to close the gender wage gap, including conducting pay and promotion audits, increasing pay transparency, limiting the use of prior salary, ensuring safe workplaces and investing in meaningful diversity and inclusion efforts; and

3) Supporting organizations — like ours and our coalition partners — that do this work on behalf of all women at the local, state and federal level.

These are difficult topics, both to discuss and solve. This is true even for those of us who are experts and it is certainly the case for those who are newer to the issue. One of the reasons the pay gap has persisted is because talking about pay has long been taboo. We are thankful to Gina for raising the issue and we hope that we will all continue to encourage people to use their platforms to talk about the race and gender wage gap, as well as the necessary work to close it.

We are committed to working alongside you so that all workers will be treated equally everywhere.

In solidarity,

Joi Chaney, Project Director, Equal Pay Today! & Senior Policy Counsel at Equal Rights Advocates

Kimberly Churches, CEO of American Association of University Women

Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates and Chair of the Equal Pay Today! Campaign

Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center

Debra L. Ness, President of National Partnership for Women and Families

Mónica Ramírez, President of Justice for Migrant Women

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of MomsRising