Dear Editor:

Equal Pay Day 2012 is April 17. Women of all colors organize public awareness events across the country about the wage gap and pay equity. The National Committee on Pay Equity created Equal Pay Day in 1996 to illustrate the gap between the wages of women and men. Nationally, women earn $0.77 on the dollar compared to men.

By every measure, the wage gap is greatest for women of color. Black women in particular make $0.61 on the dollar compared to White men. The wage gap is a contributing factor to the poverty that Black women and single mothers experience. This lived reality produces short-term and long-term economic effects that impact Black women, our families and our communities. Black women must advocate for equal pay for our work and understand this fight within the larger goal of economic justice.

The Women of Color Policy Network released the policy brief, “Wage Disparities and Women of Color” in April 2011. This report details how severe the economic condition is for Black and Latina women citing lower lifetime earnings, overrepresentation in occupations that pay lower wages and unequal access to assets and economic tools that create wealth.

Full-time working women earn less than men in comparable positions and at every educational level. College-educated women of all colors are not exempt from the effects of the wage gap; women earn less than men from the time they enter the workforce through retirement earning just $0.80 on the dollar the very first year out of college.

In communities of color as a whole, economic disparities prevail. For every $1 of net worth for White Americans, Latino Americans had $0.09 and Black Americans had $0.07. Black and Latina single mothers had a median wealth of $0. Eliminating the wage gap is an important step for Black women in eliminating poverty.

Equal Pay Day 2012 is an opportunity to raise public awareness and consciousness and to take political action. It is also an opportunity to understand that the wage gap and poverty are made better or worse for Black women with our being able to work and earn a living wage, feed our families, live in affordable housing with decent transportation, educate ourselves, access health insurance, live free from violence and mass incarceration, control our bodies, sexuality, gender and reproduction, vote in a political system that does not disenfranchise us, build our own businesses, live in a healthy environment, achieve complete well-being and become great leaders. Creating solutions at these intersections moves us closer to equal pay, closer to the elimination of poverty and closer to economic justice.

New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest PA and the American Association of University Women Pennsylvania will host “Equal Pay Day 2012: Economic Justice for All” on Friday, April 13, 12-1p, Market Square. Take the first step to make this Equal Pay Day our last.

La’Tasha D. Mayes


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