August 14, 2020, by Tamarine Cornelius
This week marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which signifies how long a Black woman has to work into 2020 to bring her 2019-20 earnings to the same amount a White man made in 2019.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is months later than National Equal Pay Day, which falls in April and is the date in 2020 when women overall matched the earnings of men in 2019. That’s because Black women and other women of color earn less than White women, widening the earnings gap even further compared to White men.
In Wisconsin, Black women are paid just 59¢ for every dollar of earnings by White non-Hispanic men. That’s based on the ratio of women’s and men’s median earnings for full-time, year-round workers. Latinx women in Wisconsin earn 55¢ for every dollar earned by White men, Native American women earn 65¢, and Asian women earn 74¢. White women have the smallest gap, earning 78¢ for every $1 earned by White men in Wisconsin.
It isn’t just one hour, one day, or even one year that Black women and other women are paid less than men for their work: it’s a lifetime of underpayment. The lifetime wage gap accumulates to the extent that Black women in Wisconsin earn $881,000 less than White men over the course of a 40-year career. In fact, a Black woman would have to work to age 88 to earn the same amount that a White man earns by age 60. The lifetime wage gap for Latinx women in Wisconsin is $966,000 compared to White men, $747,000 for Native women, $569,000 for Asian women, and $473,000 for White women.
These race and gender-based pay disparities devalue women, especially women of color, and rob them of opportunities to achieve financial security and establish wealth. Steps that can move us closer to equal pay include:
- Raising the minimum wage. Wisconsin’s minimum wage of $7.25 hasn’t been raised since 2009, and has lost about 15% of its value since then to inflation. Raising the minimum wage to $10.50 would increase the earnings of more than a quarter of a million women. Increasing the minimum wage floor is especially important for women of color, who have had their earnings depressed by both racial and gender discrimination in the job market.
- Harnessing the power of the state tax code to reclaim wages lost to institutionalized sexism and racism. Wisconsin should increase credit amounts for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which boosts income for parents who work and have low or moderate incomes. Wisconsin should expand the EITC so that workers without children are eligible for the credit as well.
- Implementing family-friendly policies, and making sure that all women have access to them. That means making sure that working parents have access to high-quality, affordable child care regardless of where they are in the state. It also means providing paid family and medical leave that includes job protections, anti-discrimination protections, and a 100% wage replacement rate at low incomes.