The Wage Gap is Leaving Native Women Behind
Wednesday, Sept. 8, marks Native Women’s Equal Pay Day—the day it takes Native women in America to earn what non-Hispanic white men finished making on December 31 of last year. We’re marking this day on September 8 because it takes nine months longer for Native women to earn the same wage that men do.
Beyond the obvious injustice of unequal pay, Native women are doing essential work that our country relies on to keep moving. That has been especially true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as nearly three in 10 Native women have been on the front lines providing essential services—from health care to child care to stocking the local grocery stores. Despite their critical contributions during a national crisis, Native women in these frontline industries earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men. For Native American mothers, the wage gap is even worse—they receive only 50 cents for every dollar that non-Hispanic white fathers are paid.
Native women are working in frontline environments that put them in greater danger during the pandemic. They’re still showing up to work, like so many other essential workers, despite the risks because they must. Two-thirds of Native women provide at least 40 percent of their families’ income, and once they reach retirement age, this wage gap will push more than 21.4 percent of Native women aged 65 and older into poverty.
Two-thirds of Native women provide at least 40 percent of their families’ income, and once they reach retirement age, this wage gap will push more than 21.4 percent of Native women aged 65 and older into poverty.
Beyond individual Native women and their families, this $0.60 pay gap has a harmful impact on the entire American workforce. If all women in the United States, including Native women, received equal pay, it would cut poverty for working women in half—and add billions to our GDP. Women drive our economy, and equal pay is a path to our economic recovery from the pandemic.
As two women elected to Congress, one of us a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, we’re proud to fight alongside Native women for just wages and safe working conditions.
On Native Women’s Equal Pay Day this year, we urge you to recognize that many of the services you depend on are being produced by Native women who are not being fairly compensated for their work. The unequal pay Native women receive for equal work builds on decades of sexism and racism, and it’s up to us to ensure that system does not continue. We all benefit when people are paid a fair wage.
It takes nine long months for Native women to catch up to their non-Hispanic white male counterparts. We all recognize the blatant injustice of that fact, and it’s past time to stop at acknowledging it. We must act.
We urge the Senate to reconsider legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would fulfill the promises of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. And we urge everyone to continue calling out unfair compensation while also supporting Native women inside and outside the workforce. We will not rest until Native Women’s Equal Pay Day no longer exists because equal pay for equal work becomes a reality for all Americans.