Women’s Equality Day recognizes the adoption of the landmark 19th amendment—and this year, we commemorate 100 years of suffrage. While this is certainly something to celebrate, it should also give us pause: we cannot celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote without recognizing that Black women were not guaranteed this right until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. The history of voting rights in this country is marked by racial and gender inequality, and we are still fighting the legacy of this discrimination in the voting booth and beyond.
When it comes to our workplaces, a key example of how the intersections between sexism and racism continue to drive inequality is the wage gap. Women overall earn just 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. But, as we recognized earlier this month on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Black women earn just 62 cents from every dollar a white man earns. The wage gap is further compounded for mothers: mothers overall earn 70 cents for every dollar a father makes, with Black mothers earning just 50 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic father makes, Native American mothers just 47 cents, and Latinx mothers a shocking 45 cents.
Unequal pay is a key indicator of the myriad inequalities that women—especially low wage workers mothers of color—still face in the workplace. As we hear every day from callers to our free legal helpline, women across the country are forced to make impossible decisions between their health and their economic security every day as they juggle caring for and supporting their families. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has served to both highlight and exacerbate these long-standing inequalities.
So this Women’s Equality Day, we’re calling for passing the policies that would help break down the sexism and racism embedded in our systems of work and care. Policies like paid leave, affordable childcare, and accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers all have critical roles to play in finally securing equality for all women, by ensuring women can stay healthy and attached to the workforce while supporting themselves and their families during these challenging times.