Fact Sheet: Equal Pay for Women of Color

Nearly forty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, paychecks and pensions for women of color are still coming up short. And women know it. Here’s what you told us in the Ask A Working Woman survey:

  • Eighty-seven percent of working women say stronger equal pay laws are important and 51 percent say stronger laws are very important, 61 percent of Hispanic women and 58 percent of African American women say stronger laws are very important.
  • Men earn more even in professions that are women’s strongholds. Among nurses, women earn only 88 percent as much as men and among teachers they earn 91 percent.                                                                                              

If you’re a woman of color in America today, chances are you’ll spend at least part of your life working for paynot enough pay.

  • Less than 3 percent of all working women earn more than $75,000 a year and 60 percent earn less than $25,000 a year.
  • Less than 2 percent of African American women earn more than $75,000 a yearand 62 percent earn less than $25,000.
  • About 1 percent of working Latinas earn more than $75,000and 75 percent earn less than $25,000.
  • In 2000, women were paid 73 cents for every dollar men received. That’s $27 less to spend on groceries, housing, child care and other expenses for every $100 worth of work we do
  • African American women only earn 67 percent of what men earn.
  • Latinas earn 55 percent of what men earn.
  • Asian Pacific American women, too, earn less. Their pay inequality is less severe than for women as a whole, but they still earn only 84 percent of men’s pay.
  • African American women workers earned a median of just over $16,000 in 2000. Latina workers earned just over $12,000.
  • In 1999, 4.3 percent of whites who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more were classified as working poor, compared with 10.2 percent of African Americans and 10.7 percent of Hispanics.
  • In 1999, women were one-third more likely than men to be among the working poor, and African Americans and Latinos were two to three times more likely than white workers.

At the patient’s bedside, behind the cash register, or in the executive suitewomen of color earn less.

Most women of color hold low-paying jobs

  • Minority and women workers earn less because they are more likely than white men to work in lower paid clerical and service jobs.

Equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue it’s a family issue.

Your family depends on you…

In 1997, nearly two-thirds of working women reported that they provided about half or more of their household income. Two out of five working women reported heading their own households and 28 percent had dependent children.

  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) of African American women surveyed said they provide about half or more of their household income.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Latinas surveyed said they provide about half or more of their household income.
  • In African American and Latino families, women’s income is especially important because African American and Latino men earn less than white men.

You’re more likely to retire poor, too.

Women are less likely than men to have pension  plans. Once we retire, we’re less likely to receive pension checks and those checks are only half as big as men’s.

  • In 2000, half of all older women receiving a private pension got less than $4,164 per year, compared with $7,768 per year for older men.
  • Today, 31 percent of African American women and 28 percent of Latinas older than 65 live in poverty.

Here’s What You Can Do

Working women are joining together to gain equal pay. You can:

  • File a discrimination charge with a federal or state anti discrimination agency. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Equal Pay Act and other laws barring discrimination. If you believe you have been denied a job, paid less, passed over for promotions or discriminated against in other ways because of your sex, race or national origin, you can file a complaint with the EEOC office in your area. You don’t need a lawyer. To be connected with the EEOC office in your area, call 1-800-669-4000.
  • If you belong to a union, talk to your shop steward.  The steward can give you advice about your rights and help you take action under your collective bargaining agreement.
  • If you don’t belong to a union, join one.
  • Join the Working Families e-Activist Network for action alerts.