This year, Moms’ Equal Pay Day falls on May 5th. On this day, the earnings of working mothers nationwide finally catches up to what working fathers earned last year. On average, working women in America make 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man, but this disparity increases when comparing working mothers’ earnings with those of working fathers, with mothers in the U.S. working full-time outside the home earning just 75 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. This gap is even wider for mothers of color; Black moms make 52 cents, and Latina moms just 46 cents, compared to every dollar a white, non-hispanic father earns. This inequity costs working moms tens of thousands of dollars every year — additional income that would make a world of difference to families, especially during this pandemic and accompanying care crisis facing working parents. Pay inequity hits those who are most dependent on steady paychecks the hardest: women of color, who are most likely to be the breadwinners of their families, are also overrepresented in frontline, low-wage jobs.
As Mother’s Day approaches, too many moms are still facing financial insecurity in the face of an ongoing economic and health crisis. Countless women nationwide have been risking their lives to work during the pandemic, all while juggling caregiving responsibilities and oftentimes exiting the workplace entirely. Working mothers deserve better than this. This year, we have the opportunity to support concrete solutions that will ensure moms can stay attached to the workforce and earning a paycheck.
As President Biden proposes comprehensive paid family and medical leave as part of the American Families Plan, history is being made in the movement to recognize support for care as essential infrastructure and provide support for workers caring for themselves and their loved ones. This proposal would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one or one’s own serious illness, deal with a loved one’s military deployment, and more.
And last week, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would guarantee pregnant workers a right to reasonable accommodations for their health and prevent them from being forced off the job, was reintroduced in the Senate with bipartisan support. This legislation would ensure that employers cannot force pregnant workers off the job or deny them reasonable accommodations that would allow them to continue working while maintaining healthy pregnancies.
Ensuring that mothers nationwide aren’t forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy and their paychecks is critical to addressing the root causes of the wage gap. At this critical time, we must continue to fight for concrete, federally guaranteed protections for working mothers, so that women are no longer punished or pushed off the job for growing or caring for their families, or protecting their own health. As A Better Balance’s co-founders and co-presidents Dina Bakst and Sherry Leiwant recently wrote in an op-ed for The Hill, “Supportive work-family policies…are not ‘nice-to-haves’ — the workers we talk to everyday need them for their financial and often physical survival.”