We all know women are paid less than men. The best case scenario has us earning 79 cents for every male dollar. That’s if you are both white and skilled. Women of color and those in blue collar jobs suffer way more, with pay that is as low as half that of their male counterparts.
Over a lifetime those pennies on the dollar add up. According to a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center, North Carolina Women lose more than $250,000 over the course of 40 working years, just because of their gender.
That’s a ridiculous amount of money. $250,000 could fund 15 years of retirement. Even more staggering is what could happen if women invested that $6000 a year extra into an interest-bearing account. At a conservative 6% interest, that $250,000 disparity adds up to nearly $1 million over the course of 40 working years.
Believe it or not, women in North Carolina are doing better than many of their peers in other states. In Wyoming, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Utah working women earn $600,000 less over their lifetimes. Latinas in Utah get $1.1 million less in their lifetimes than their male counterparts.
For women of color in our state, the prognosis is depressing: Black women earn $700,000 less, Native Americans $800,000 less, and Latinas $1 million less.
Women already face a tough row to hoe without being penalized in our wallets for our gender. Single moms overwhelmingly live in poverty. Rural women face pervasive generational medical problems. Women of childbearing age must fight to get healthcare and reproductive services.
What’s the solution? First off, the minimum wage must be increased to a living wage. Workplaces must become more family friendly. North Carolina needs to pass the Equal Rights Act (ERA). And Congress should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that allows workers to sue employers for fair pay.
On a more local level, we need to tell the businesses we frequent that we need them to pay workers fairly and equally. In our own workplaces we need to advocate for ourselves and our coworkers. And we must talk to the representatives in our districts to tell them we cannot stand for $1 million stolen from the pockets of women.