If you knew it will take another 40 years for men and women to reach parity in wages, would you be outraged enough to fight for equal pay? According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if the pace of change in the annual earnings ratio continues at the same rate, it will be 2059 before that happens. And this is considered a moderate estimate of gender pay inequality.
If you knew that women of color fare most poorly in pay equity, would you fight to change that in your workplace? In 2018, all women earned 82% of what white men earn; white women earned 79%; black women earned 62%; Hispanic or Latinx women earned 55%; Asian women earned 90%. Clearly, women of color fare much worse and are critical to the fight for equal pay.
If you knew that women in health care were paid less than their male counterparts, yet still risk their lives and their families’ lives, especially during this coronavirus pandemic, would you push for their equal pay? Across the board, women physicians in the U.S. make substantially (25%-33%) less than their male counterparts (2019 Medscape Physician Compensation, Harvard Business Review). According to the registered nurses website (registerednursing.org), salaries for nurses highlight a $6,000 increase in pay for male nurses (who are 12% of the overall profession). Local data has been unattainable.
If you knew one-third of female workers are single mothers whose incomes support the entire household, and in 2017, 1.7 million female health care workers and their children in the U.S. lived below the poverty line, would you find ways to support those women in these tough times? In Asheville, 16.2% of all women live in poverty, compared to 13.9% of men. Twenty percent of children under the age of 6 live in poverty, 29.3% of Hispanic/Latinx and 25% of African Americans (welfareinfo.org).
So many people have lost their jobs, it’s hard to figure out what to focus on. But we need to recognize those who are most impacted by wage inequity, whether they are now unemployed or now risking their lives. Think of child care workers, hospitality workers, self-employed service workers, store clerks. Those with no real ability to save up for an emergency are being hit the hardest.
And if we just focus on health care workers, there is this conclusion from the American Journal of Public Health, (February 2019): Discrimination in pay is a persistent feature of employment in health care systems — not simply because they are women, but also because they are not white. Without local data on wage disparity in Asheville or Buncombe County, it’s hard to know where to focus, but we have national data, and we can demand that local government and businesses examine their pay disparities and remedy an often desperate situation for women and their families.
Economic stability in the household is recognized as one of the cornerstones of good health. Legal remedies supported by the Equal Pay Act or under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act do not offer consistent or clear-cut remedies. The health care system must focus within and initiate protocols and the use of metrics that eliminate race and gender as explicit or implicit variables that continue to disparately impose poverty on female employees of color, their children and their families. Every industry needs to do the same.
— Ann Von Brock