You’re going to hear a lot about the gender pay gap on Equal Pay Day — because it’s real and it needs to end. And thanks to more awareness in recent years, you'll probably hear more about how April 2 is not equal pay day for all women and nonbinary folks. But what we still need to talk about is how the pay gap is never going to close if everyone isn’t included in the conversation — and that must widen to include people who live at the intersection of multiple marginalizations.
The National Committee on Pay Equity founded Equal Pay Day in 1996 to raise awareness about the gap between what men and women were being paid, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. But the pay gap goes well beyond the gender binary. In 2018, women, on average, earned 81.8 percent of what men did per week, which is actually 0.7 percent less than 2017, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. That means progress is actually declining when it comes to reaching pay equity. And the wage gap gets even wider for women of color, says the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.
- Asian women: 85 percent
- White women: 77 percent
- Women with disabilities: 83 percent
- Black women 61 percent
- Indigenous or Alaskan native women: 58 percent
- Latinx women: 53 percent
It’s clear there’s so much more to the wage gap than just gender, and Latinx women are most often earning below the household poverty income threshold, says the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. And even though Asian women look like they top the list of earners, there’s a wage gap among eastern and southeast Asian people, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. While Indian women earn 121 cents and Chinese women earn 103 cents for every dollar a white man earns, says the National Partnership for Women and Families, Burmese women are paid 50 cents, Hmong women 57 cents, and Laotian women 58 cents to every dollar white men are paid.
There’s also very little data on how the wage gap affects the LGBTQ community. A Student Loan Hero survey, which was last updated in December 2018, found that, on average, LGBTQ people make less than $50,000 a year. The National LGBTQ Task Force reported that women in same-sex couples “have a median personal income of $38,000 compared to $47,000 for men in same-sex couples and $48,000 for men in different-sex couples.”
For transgender or gender nonconforming folks, the picture can be even starker. The average earnings of a transgender woman decreases by a third after she transitions, says the Center for American Progress and the National LGBTQ Task Force says transgender people experience high rates of poverty and are more likely to have household incomes of less than $10,000 a year. But data on how the earnings of LGBTQ and nonbinary folks truly compares isn’t readily available — and that’s a problem.
It’s not hard to guess how the wage gap might be affecting the LGTBQ community when one in four LGBTQ employees report experiencing employment discrimination, and the unemployment rate for transgender employees is three times higher than the national average, according to Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. But there’s currently no federal law protecting LGBTQ employees from employment discrimination, says Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.
Equal Pay might have been created to raise awareness about the gender pay gap, but we’ve come a long way since then. We now know that there are so many more people affected pay inequity, and it’s time to include everyone in that conversation.