When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act almost 50 years ago on June 10, 1963, women earned 60 cents for every dollar a white man earned. On the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, African American women earn 62 cents for every dollar a white man earns. Latina women fare even worse earning 53 cents to what a white non-Hispanic man. The gap translates to a $19,581 per year wage loss for African American women and $24,224 for Hispanic women.
Even in comparing African American women to their male African American counterparts, they still earn less at 85 cents. Latina women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by a Hispanic man. The wage gap is a country wide average and varies state by state. The best state is Nevada for African American women who earn there almost 90 cents of what a white man earns. And the worst state is North Dakota where they earn less than 40 cents. Likewise, Hispanic women do best in Vermont earning 97.4 cents of what a white non-Hispanic man earns. But, in the District of Columbia, Hispanic women earn less than 35 cents of what a white man earns. Bottom line is no matter which way the data is viewed, African American women and their Hispanic counter parts earn at pay rates equal to the 1960’s when the Equal Pay Act was signed.
The Paycheck Fairness Act introduced into Congress and the Senate again in April, 2011, would help equalize the playing field for minority women. It would support and supplement the Equal Pay Act by adding prohibitions against retaliations by employers for employees who discuss their wages. It would further add punitive damages against employers who discriminate against women for same job, same performance, same education and same skills in a willful manner. Hitting employers and corporations in the pocketbook is the best way to punish and prevent these practices from occurring. Some employers, including some big corporations admit to recruiters that they like to hire women because they can save money on them.
The lack of pay among minority women affects not only women of color but society and the economy as a whole. Many African American women are head of their household. The disparity of lost income affects the buying power of African American households. And that loss of almost $20,000 in wages yearly could help some families from losing their homes; feed a family of four; pay for health insurance and buy necessary items for the family. There’s a whole lot of buying power a family can buy with an extra almost $20,000 per year. And the resulting sales could increase the tax revenues for our states and municipalities.
If we want to fix the economy, we can look to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Urge your congress person or Senator to sign on and vote for the pending bills when they come up for a vote. Our economy and women need it.