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'It's inhumane' | Women earn less, on average, than men

In California, women make 88 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to CCSWG. The pay gap for women of color is much wider.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — This year, National Equal Pay Day falls on March 15. 

The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. That's according to the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), a coalition of people working to eliminate sex- and race-based wage discrimination in order to achieve pay equity.

The NCPE originated Equal Pay Day in 1996 to raise awareness throughout the nation about the gap between men's and women's wages. It was originally called National Pay Inequity Awareness Day, but the name changed to Equal Pay Day in 1998. 

Since women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. In 2020, the average woman working full-time, year-round, for wages or a salary earned 83 cents for every dollar paid to their average male counterpart, according to The White House

In a proclamation on National Equal Pay Day, President Joe Biden urged all Americans to "recognize the full value of women's skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage inequality, and join efforts to achieve equal pay." 

He also said that "the pay gap reflects outright discrimination as well as barriers that women face in accessing good-paying jobs and meeting caregiving responsibilities — including a lack of affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and fair and predictable scheduling — which often prevent women from joining and staying in the workforce."

In California, women make 88 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (CCSWG), a commission that works to eliminate inequities in state laws, practices and conditions that affect California's women and girls. 

Dr. Teah Hairston is a Black professional woman. She relies on her full-time job at the Board of State and Community Corrections in Sacramento to provide for her three children. Despite having four degrees and five years of work experience with the state, Hairston says she gets paid less than her white male counterparts.

"Equal pay has been something we have been fighting for, for way too long," Hairston said. "It's hard to see, specifically, white males being paid three to four times more, not because they're more qualified, but because they have the networks or the social capital due to their race or socioeconomic status. It's really disheartening."

Credit: Dr. Teah Hairston

Hairston  is not alone in the gender pay gap. The CCSWG found that the pay gap for women of color is much wider compared to men. In California, on average, Black women are paid only 61 cents on the dollar, Hispanic women get 42 cents, Native American women get 49 cents, Asian women get 75 cents and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders get 54 cents compared to men.

"It's inhumane, especially considering the roles women traditionally play in our homes and in our communities," she said. "As long as we allow racism and sexism to persist, then these disparities and inequalities will persist as well."

Credit: Dr. Teah Hairston

The CCSWG, along with other groups and agencies, is working to close the gender wage gap in California. The Commission said that "the ongoing crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored how vital equal pay is for women and families and exposed how the work performed primarily by women, and particularly women of color, continues to be undervalued, even as we depend on it as never before."

To learn how the CCSWG  is working to address the gender pay gap in California or for ways to get involved in the fight for equal pay, visit the CCSWG official website.

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