Today, you can find countless articles and research papers about women in the workforce, the challenges they face and legislative victories they’ve won over the years. However, even well informed authors, pundits and scholars do not always recognize that working women of color often have a different experience than “women” as a whole.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that women of color will become the majority of women in the United States by 2045. Even though women currently make up nearly half the labor force, there are persistent wage and economic disparities among all working women. For many women of color and their families, these disparities are more severe. For example, last year Hispanic women and Latinas made only 59 percent of white men’s wages – a discrepancy that adds up to more than $850,000 over the course of a career.
Despite the fact that educational attainment for women has encouragingly risen at every level, with women outpacing men in most cases, not all women enjoy the same pay advantage that comes with higher education. For example, last year the median income for all women with a bachelor’s degree was $931 per week. However, black women with that degree only saw $846 of that, and Hispanic women at the same level only brought home $818.
And although statistics about the persistent gender wage gap show that it is slowly narrowing, this small gain has not been shared equally among all women.
The Women’s Bureau is committed to reducing barriers that inhibit or prevent women from getting and keeping better jobs. To raise awareness about the uphill battle that many women of color face when trying to support themselves and their families, we recently published eight fact sheets about the economic status of women of color. They provide a snapshot of the current racial and ethnic disparities occurring in wages, unemployment and educational attainment, and the interconnected effects of these factors on the larger populations of working women of color.
I encourage you to take a look at the fact sheets and learn more about these important issues. As more women of color become part of the workforce, the challenges they face will have a major impact on their families, communities, and ultimately, the economy as whole. It’s imperative that we are aware of these problems now so that we can overcome them moving forward.
Latifa Lyles is acting director of the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau.