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Equal Pay Day Obscures Struggles of Women of Color

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On average, a working woman in Washington state makes about 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. (Monster Ztudio/Adobe Stock)
On average, a working woman in Washington state makes about 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. (Monster Ztudio/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 24, 2021

SEATTLE -- Today is Equal Pay Day, which represents how long into 2021 a woman would have to work in order to earn what a man did, on average, in 2020.

The marker highlights the pay gap that persists for women.

Gabriela Quintana, advocacy director for the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute, said women of color achieve equal pay with white men even later in the year.

"We mask it by clumping us all together," Quintana pointed out. "But the reality of it is that women of color are still way behind white women."

Black women's Equal Pay Day is August 3. For Native American women it's Sep. 8, and for Latina women it's Oct. 21 this year.

Women are paid about 82 cents on average for every dollar men make. But the gap is even larger in Washington state, where women make about 78 cents for every dollar men make.

Quintana acknowledged state lawmakers have tried to close the pay gap with blanket policies for all women, such as preventing employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history.

But she believes there are better approaches.

"So I think that we need to look at targeted policies that really are goal-oriented," Quintana suggested. "Which means starting to look at data and really seeing where the big gaps are, where the big problems are."

She said other policies like overtime pay, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick leave also are important for addressing the pay gap.

The pandemic has been especially hard on women, as they are often primary caregivers for children and with schools closed, they've had to juggle kids and jobs.

But women also are falling out of the job market faster than men. A December report found 154,000 job losses - and all of them were women of color.

Quintana isn't surprised.

"COVID has really exposed that," Quintana remarked. "In that it has been women, and it has been Brown women, who have been impacted the most during COVID."

Disclosure: The Economic Opportunity Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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