National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

Fair Pay: An Economic Imperative for Women of Color and the Nation

January 9, 2013 | Workplace Fairness

Every day, tens of millions of hardworking women get up, go to work and do all we can to help our employers, keep our jobs and make enough money to put food on the table, pay the bills and provide for our families. We make up nearly half of the workforce, and we are the breadwinners in two-thirds of families. We are workers, business owners, entrepreneurs and job creators - economic engines in our communities and families.

Yet women are paid significantly less than men due to a punishing gender-based wage gap - and African American women and Latinas suffer most.

African American women and Latinas who work full time in the United States are paid just 70 cents and 60 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to full-time working men. And according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the National Partnership for Women & Families, in states like New Jersey, Washington and Massachusetts, the wage gap for some women of color is near 50 cents for every dollar. That's like working for two weeks and getting paid for one - it's unacceptable and it hurts families, communities and the economy.

Losing tens of thousands of dollars every year is no small matter for any family, particularly not for the nearly 40 percent of African-American- and Latina-headed households living in poverty. If the wage gap were eliminated, African American women would have enough money for more than two years' worth of food and more than three years' worth of family health insurance premiums. Latinas would have enough for nearly two years of rent and an additional 5,743 gallons of gas - every year.

It's unthinkable - unbelievable, really - that at a time when many people think women have achieved equality in the workplace and when women's income is so critical, that a punishing gender- and race-based wage gap persists.

Despite the claims of the opponents of measures that would address this gap, it simply cannot be explained away. Significant pay differences persist no matter women's perceived choices, work patterns, education, location or industry. And it is made worse for women of color by persistent racial discrimination. African American women, Latinas and their families deserve much better.

If lawmakers are serious about helping families and rebuilding our economy, then closing the wage gap should be a high priority. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help fight wage discrimination and establish stronger workplace protections for women in all states. It would promote economic stability for a critical segment of the workforce and, in turn, strengthen our national economy.

This new analysis is a stark reminder for lawmakers at the federal level and in states that curbing pay discrimination and promoting fair pay for women must be an across-the-board economic imperative. It's time for members of Congress, new and returning, to act.

State-specific information on the wage gap for African American women can be found at www.NationalPartnership.org/AAGap. State-specific findings for Latinas can be found at www.NationalPartnership.org/LatinaGap.


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