Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

Each year, Equal Pay Day is recognized and supported by advocates to generate awareness about the national gender pay gap between men and women.

To foster awareness about the day, the Equal Pay Today campaign was launched in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity, a group of organizations and individuals working to stop wage discrimination.

The campaign’s mission is “to eradicate the long-standing gender wage gap impacting the economic security of women and families through an innovative collaboration of national, regional, and state-based women's legal advocacy and worker justice groups,” according to its website.

Shannon Williams, director of the Equal Pay Day campaign at Equal Rights Advocates, told Indian Country Today in an email why Wednesday is this year’s day, “We observe Equal Pay Day on March 24 because the average U.S. woman working full time year round earns 80 cents to the average man's dollar, so she must work until March 24 of this year just to catch up to what the average man earned last year.”

Shannon Williams

For Indigenous women, it’s months longer to catch up.

The discrepancies shift nationally depending on race and region. For that reason, Equal Pay Day varies for each race. For example, the average Asian American / Pacific Islander woman makes 85 cents for every average male dollar, thus the AAPI Equal Pay Day is March 9, for Black women the amount is 63 cents, thus their day is August 3, for Native women who earn 60 cents to every average man’s dollar, their day is September 8, and for Latina women who earn 55 cents comparatively, their day is October 21.

(Related: Native Women’s Equal Pay Day raises awareness)

Williams, who herself has experienced the wage gap as a Black woman, specifically addressed the inequities faced by Indigenous women.

“For Indigenous and Native American women, the wage gap is much worse,” she said. “Native Women's Equal Pay Day doesn't come until September 8 this year, because the average Native woman working full-time earns only 60 cents for every dollar paid to the average non-Hispanic white man. This means that a Native Woman must work 21 months to make what a white non-Hispanic man made in just 12.”

Williams says such a significant wage gap adds up to well over one million dollars over the course of an Indigenous woman’s career.

“Over the course of a 40-year career, that adds up to a total loss of $1,035,360 in wages stolen from the average Native woman due to discrimination. That money is not just stolen from her, but also from her family and her community. It's money that could be passed on as generational wealth, so the discriminatory harm is even longer lasting. Native moms are up against racism, sexism, settler colonialism, and the maternal wage gap, so they make an average of just 47 cents for every dollar paid to white dads,” wrote Williams.

In addition to the work of Williams at Equal Rights Advocates, MoneyGeek, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2016 has compiled a comprehensive list of 627 U.S. cities in honor of Equal Pay Day.

One city with the lower national statistics for women is Rapid City, S.D. Rapid City, with a higher than average Native population, has women earning 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. This is an approximate 4 cents difference than the national average. Equal Pay Day in Rapid City would be April 16 as opposed to the national March 24.

The city with the widest gap is Cedar Park, Texas. The wage gap is so wide, their Equal Pay Day would be February 16, 2022.

You can review all of the 627 cities in their report on their website.

Williams said it all boils down to discrimination, systemic colonial barriers and a lower assessment to the value of a woman’s work contributions.

“For Native women, this pay discrimination and occupational segregation is a reflection of the other systemic colonial barriers that they face: barriers to economic opportunity, the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, lack of healthcare access, and more, and in the time of this global pandemic, these barriers create a problem that is life and death,” Williams said.

She said Native women, their families and communities deserve better.

“Women's and Native women's work is not valued as it should be,” Williams said. “Pay discrimination and occupational segregation result in wealth gaps for communities as a whole. In times like this especially, that wealth gap can be deadly, and puts many families at greater risk."

For more information, visit http://www.equalpaytoday.org/ and https://www.equalrights.org/

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