Women of Color are Disportionately Underserved

As soon as we walked into her office, we could smell her high priced perfume, with the tinted red lipstick and the clicking of her heels as she was walking over to hand my mom an application. From the strong glare of her gold watch, we sat there still as glaciers, while this woman integrated my mom with questions like “Do you speak and write English? Are you married, do you have children, do you have a vehicle?” As my mom nodded with a lowered head, “Yes.” As soon as the appointment was over, I let out a big sigh of relief, and I knew that we had passed the test. Then she asked, “Do you have any questions?” That felt like my checkpoint to ask what’s been bothering me so much. “Why are we poor?” I asked. She responded, “Because you’re Mexican, poor, and can’t speak English.”

I really thought we were cursed. I felt guilt and pain for many years just being in fifth grade and learning the hard way of social economics. By the time I was in middle school, I was in desperate need of eyeglasses. I’d failed my math test horribly and my math teacher inspected my notes, as he flipped each page with disgust he discovered that my notes were not written right. But since I knew my mother was struggling to make ends meat and we had just gotten our electricity turned on, I knew it would be another economic burden for my family.

I carried this burden; that because of ethnicity and my mom was a single mother and with no higher education that we were not on the list to be financially secure. I grew up thinking: We’re poor because our past relatives were poor and everyone else in your family is poor.

As I grew older, I began to understand wealthy inequality. The majority of wealthy people are white, male and their wealth was passed down through generations. I also discovered when wealth was created; it was in a business form like Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Hilton Hotels, and many other companies were created in the late 1930’s when banks were lending money to the majority white male population.

Today there are 123 million women in the workforce[1]. For women of color,women of color, factors that contribute to the wage gap are different that those of white women due to the fact that women of color frequently work in lower paying jobs and experience more substantial caregiver burdens.

The wider pay gap for women of color also raises other questions about discrimination on gender, race, and ethnicity. Women of Color, make up more than half in the labor service, sales, and office industries. They earn (compared to a non Hispanic) Latino 54%, African-American 65%, Native American 65%, American Indian 59%, and Asian American 90%. This places us at a disadvantage from the moment we enter the workforce creating major structural barriers. The most concentrated group of women are single African-American mothers twenty One Point six percent of African American women, 14.6% Hispanic women, 7.6% white women, and 5.9% Asians are single mothers, trying to bring in a two parent full income and provide a prosperous life to their families. Because of high rates of crime, violence, poverty, and discrimination single African American mothers are immensely among these states: Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama, Iowa, and Illinois.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, if congress were to pass the Paycheck Fairness act, it would help women of Color afford the following:

  • Four months’ supply of groceries: $2,598
  • Three months’ rent and utilities: $1,917
  • Three months’ child care payments: $2,591
  • Five months’ health insurance premiums: $1,883
  • Four months’ student loan payments: $1,332
  • Seven tanks of gas: $441

Also, Women of Color are living paycheck to paycheck, which limit their opportunities due to potential employers requesting credit checks. A survey conducted in Demos, Discredited, stated that 1 in 7 of all respondents who have poor credit say they’ve been told they would not be hired for a job because of the information in their credit report. Also, 1 in 4 survey respondents who are unemployed say a prospective employer has requested a credit check as part of a job application. [2] Traub states that employment credit checks illegitimately obstruct access to jobs, which grants women of color a lower chance to be hired and consequently, to be paid living wages and to become self-sufficient.

Women have been disadvantaged, and women of color just need equality and fair treatment, to even the playing field. For a start, congress must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, Living Wage act, amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) for paid maternity leave, to pass legislation banning employment credit checks, and for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to improve their system to remove information about medial debt, disputed accounts, bankruptcy and educational loans from credit reports. [3]

Employers believe that the Paycheck Fairness will cost them money and that women are given all possible opportunities for them to be self-sufficient and a prosperous life.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, the wage gap between full-time working men and women in the U.S. short-changes women by nearly $500 billion per year. Those lost wages mean families have less money to save for the future or to spend on basic goods, services, and needs. Companies are actually making more money and not splitting it equally, which means women lose out and so do their families. If women were paid equally, they would gain:

  • 83 more weeks of food (1.6 years’ worth);
  • Seven more months of mortgage and utilities payment;
  • 11 more months of rent or;
  • Nine more years of birth control.[4]

If women of color were given the same opportunities as white women and non-Hispanic men, they would not be disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions and higher education. This would lead to greater and self-sufficiency and also open doors to an increasing level of women in Congress, government agencies, CEO, leadership positions, and a rising number of women of color being self-sufficient.

[1] “Women’s Bureau (WB) — Quick Facts on Women in the Labor Force in 2010.” Women’s Bureau (WB) — Quick Facts on Women in the Labor Force in 2010. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

[2] Traub, Amy. “Demos.” Discredited: How Employment Credit Checks Keep Qualified Workers Out Of A Job. Demos.org, n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.

[3] Traub, Amy. “Demos.” Discredited: How Employment Credit Checks Keep Qualified Workers Out Of A Job. Demos.org, n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.

[4] Bassett, Laura. “Wage Gap Costs U.S. Women $500 Billion A Year, Report Finds.” Even Divvied up among All Working Women, That’s Real Money. Huffington Post, 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.