by Sarah Whitman
Hi Internet! I wanted to take 5 minutes of your time to discuss some of the comments and reactions I saw to Equal Pay Day last week and bust down (thotiana) some of the fake news I was seeing.
Lots of people were posting about Equal Pay Day and for those who don’t know- Equal Pay Day marks the day that the average woman has to work until to make the same amount as a white man makes in a year. So, I have to work until April 2nd to make what my white male counterpart makes on December 31st. And just FYI, women of color have to work longer, which is why we have Black Women’s and Latina Women’s equal pay days in August and November respectively.
But I’m here to talk about some comments that I saw on Instagram, specifically saying that the pay gap is a myth because unequal pay is now illegal. One girl even asked me for a list of businesses that don’t pay women of color equally. She, like everyone else, was missing the point. So here I am to debunk the idea that the pay gap isn’t real.
First of all, let’s start by saying that just because something is “illegal” doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also illegal. But you know what happens every day? Sexual harassment in the workplace. And just like unequal pay, it goes unreported because of power dynamics, fear of losing your job, or women just being unaware that what is happening isn’t okay.
There are a few reasons that the pay gap is still around, but I’m going to cover the biggies. The first is that women are taught by society to not ask for too much, keep our heads down, and mind our business. This leads to women not asking for as much money when they first get a job. A Harvard study showed that women are less likely than men to apply for jobs that do not have a stated salary and are less likely than men to negotiate a stated salary. So, right off the bat, a woman and a man starting the same job could be making different amounts of money.
This is something we call an institutionalized problem. Society, media, culture, whatever you want to call it have taught women and men to adhere to different behavioral standards. This teaches men to be more outgoing and ask for what they want, and women to just be grateful for the opportunity. I am speaking in generalizations, but I mean I did learn this from Harvard.
Let’s move on to the motherhood bias. I also saw a lot of comments suggesting that women are more likely to take part-time jobs, want to have babies, and spend more time with their families than at work. I’m just gonna stop y’all right there because this is some pre-Feminist Mystique way of thinking. If you haven’t noticed, females are the only sex that can be pregnant. If you did not know this do not pass go, do not collect $200 and please return to 5th grade. If a family wants to have children, the woman by biological standards must carry the baby. This means that she might be slower than usual (because she’s growing another human) and will need to take time off before and after the delivery to 1) recover and 2) take care of the human being she just carried inside of her for the better part of the last year. And yeah, her job is going to keep moving without her there. But when she comes back, she should be caught up, able to move forward and be granted the same promotion opportunities as her male counterparts WHO DO NOT HAVE TO PUSH A LIVING BREATHING HUMAN OUT OF THEIR BODIES.
And lastly, I want to talk about the fact that women of color have a larger wage gap than white women. The 80% pay gap statistic that you see most is the average salary of all women in the US compared to men. From there, you’ll see that white women make 77%, Asian women make 83%, Black women make 61% and Latina women make 53%. So why is that? Why do Black and Latina women have a larger wage gap? Well, first of all, let’s just acknowledge that there is still racial discrimination in this country. Whether implicit bias or outright prejudice, people of color are still held back in many ways.
A UCLA study found that people with “black-sounding” names are less likely to be called for an interview compared to their “white-sounding” counterparts based on resume alone. In fact, white names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. If people with Black or Latina sounding names are receiving fewer interviews than people with white-sounding names, they are automatically at a disadvantage to 1) get a job and 2) there is probably some inherent discrimination when companies offer a salary. People of color are also afforded fewer educational and career opportunities than white people, but that’s a whole other article about institutionalized racism I could write.
The bottom line is, I can’t just hand you a list of businesses that are discriminating against women and people of color. The pay gap is an institutionalized issue, but it can be fixed. The Paycheck Fairness Act aims to make pay data more transparent. This means that companies will have to pay more attention to what they are paying people and have the opportunity to fix any pay gaps if they are there. We can also educate ourselves. The more women know about the pay gap, about salary negotiations, and about what they legally deserve, the smaller the pay gap will become.
Check out our #MillionforaMillion Campain to take action for equal pay!