Equal Pay Movement Has These Lessons to Learn

Written by on May 5, 2018 in Conscious Business, Economy with 1 Comment

Roxanne Jones / Image via CNN


By Roxanne Jones | CNN

This year, once again, instead of raising my fist in protest on Equal Pay Day, I felt disconnected from the fight.

It’s not that I haven’t been inspired by the millions of women who’ve spoken out as part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, or, taken part in marches across the nation to expose the blatant misogyny, harassment and systematic pay inequity we face in the workplace.
The frank and oft-times painful conversations we are finally beginning to have about what women’s equality should look like for all women, regardless of race or religion, give me hope.
Since its inception, the women’s movement has focused on an agenda for white women with barely a wink and a nod to black and brown women, who’ve battled on the front lines for equality. From the mid-19th century, when some feminists fell out over whether to champion women’s rights or abolition, to the mid-20th century, when noted white feminist leaders like Betty Friedan dismissed the concerns of poor women, women of color, and queer women, there has been a disingenuous strategy of trickle-down equality, which means women of color continually come up short of substantive gains toward full equality. Leaders of the movement historically have been reluctant, or simply refused, to examine how thoroughly race intersects with issues such as equal pay for women.
No more. That tide may be turning thanks to a new generation of women like Laurie Cumbo, who is majority leader of the New York City Council. Cumbo has introduced legislation that would require gender and race wage data for the public sector and city contractors be made available and transparent to the public. She understands that pay inequality and racial inequality cannot be separate issues when it comes to fighting for equal pay for all women.
“Just as harassers and abusers are being exposed, we must expose the racism and sexism at play in the systemic wage losses for women, and women of color in particular,” Cumbo wrote for nydailynews.com.
Time’s up on using black and brown women as pawns (on the 21st century red carpet or the 19th century lecture circuit) to advance the equality of our white sisters at the expense of our own well-being and equality.
Since President John F. Kennedy signed the equal pay law in 1963 — when white women made just 59 cents to each dollar white men made — we’ve witnessed woman of all races standing, marching and singing together to demand equal pay. And this is important work that must continue.
Yet the message always sounds off-key to me because there is no expanded conversation on how to help the women who struggle most gain a little more ground. I hear no calls to examine the reasons behind the racial pay gap among women.
We need a new strategy if we are serious about equality. This one doesn’t work for all women.
My white sisters are great at articulating a one-note statistic of how women (meaning white women) today make about 82 cents for each dollar white men earn. But they seem less willing to acknowledge that the gender pay gap doesn’t affect all women equally, or to advocate for the women most affected by it. Black women, for instance, earn 65 cents, and Hispanic women make 58 cents to each dollar earned by white men. Asian women fare better than most at 87 cents, though that is still unacceptable.
The conversation always flips back to the 82-centers. Their struggles, their demands. Their privileged perspective — intended or not — dominates the entire Equal Pay agenda.


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  1. jestempk@yahoo.com' Jocko says:

    According to the World Economic Forum’s study, “female CEOs reduce the gender wage gap at the top and widen it at the bottom of the wage distribution, with essentially no effect on the average.”

    That is a sign that there is more to the wage gap than discrimination.

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