March is Women’s History Month, and with Equal Pay Day – the day marking how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year – falling on the 14th of this month, it is an apt time to reflect upon the progress we’ve made towards ensuring justice and equity for all women, as well as the steps forward that remain.
On average, women make just 77 cents per every dollar made by men. For women of color, this gap is even larger: Black women make just 64 cents per dollar, Latina women make just 54 cents, and Indigenous women only earn 51 cents per every dollar paid to men. This unacceptable wage gap, which takes a tremendous toll on the economic security of women and families as a whole, does not happen in a vacuum; systemic sexism, as well as our country’s shameful history of racism and devaluing women of color’s labor in particular, all play a role in this pay disparity.
This month, as we reflect on all the progress we’ve made in the historic fight for women’s equality, we can see how structural solutions to closing the wage gap are not only possible, but necessary. In December 2022, President Biden signed two key pieces of federal legislation into law: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, both of which will provide critical protections for pregnant, postpartum, and lactating workers. We know that pay inequity for women often begins with pregnancy, and for years, far too many working mothers have been pushed off the job at a critical juncture in their financial lives due to a lack of access to simple but vital workplace accommodations needed to maintain healthy pregnancies, recover from childbirth, or pump milk on their own terms. As we found in a 2022 report with our partners at Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a lack of access to these accommodations has disproportionately harmed Black women in low-wage jobs, for whom federal protections like the PWFA and PUMP Act are long overdue.
The passage of these two new federal laws is cause to celebrate and have hope for the future, and as we gear up to ensure they are implemented and enforced effectively, we are excited to see these structural solutions to gender inequity in action.
At the same time, there is much more to be done in order to ensure all working women are supported in the workplace and compensated fairly – we have recently seen an exciting spotlight on the need for protections like paid family and medical leave and paid sick time from our national leadership, and we know that access to these supportive policies is instrumental in ensuring working women and mothers are able to care for themselves and their loved ones without sacrificing their economic security.
This month, as we reflect on the great strides we’ve made towards gender equity, it remains clear that creating more equitable and supportive workplaces is a critical foundation for ensuring all working women can not only survive, but thrive.