March 31 is Equal Pay Day, the day in the year when women, on average, make as much as white men did on average on January 1. This day already marks a troubling reality but is one made even more so by the current global pandemic. Research from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) found that the women on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis — especially in health care, child care, and grocery store work — are suffering the most financially, as they not only face particularly stark gender wage gaps in their fields but often don’t have benefits, such as health insurance or paid leave.
According to the NWLC research, 66 percent of grocery store employees are women, and 43 percent are women of color. Eighty-three percent of home health and personal aides are women, 59 percent of whom are women of color; women who work in home-health jobs lose $417 a month because of the gender wage gap. Women who work as servers lose $500 a month due to the wage gap, and the annual difference between a male grocery worker’s salary and a female grocery worker’s salary is $3,000. The wage gap difference for registered nurses, according to NWLC, is $6,000.
On March 26, 281,000 new unemployment claims had been filed in the U.S. in the past week. Even with the passage of the new coronavirus stimulus bill, women are not receiving the resources they need right now.
“The thousands of dollars lost to the wage gap every year mean that in this moment of crisis, women (particularly women of color), non-binary people and the families who depend on their income don’t have the financial resources they need to deal with job loss, or to pay for emergency health care or medication, rent/mortgages, utilities, rising prices for food, and other essentials,” Maya Raghu, the director of workplace equality and senior counsel at NWLC told Supermajority News.
Raghu added that now more than ever, it’s crucial to recognize that these jobs are low-paying because they are largely performed by women.
“Women’s work is undervalued,” she said. “Many of these jobs have been deemed essential in response to COVID 19, and many of these jobs are getting hit by layoffs during this pandemic.”
If more had been done to close the gender wage gap in recent years, we might not be in this gendered economic crisis right now, Shannon Williams, director of the Equal Pay Today program at Equality Rights Advocates, told Supermajority News.
“For low-paid women—many of whom are women of color— a lifetime of gender and racial pay discrimination adds up. If fair pay were a reality, Latinas would have an extra $28,000 from last year to each fall back on right now. Women are disproportionately on the frontlines of this pandemic as healthcare workers, food service workers, caregivers, and grocery store cashiers. They deserve fair pay. Their labor is keeping our nation and economy running.”