When I started my life away from home serving with men and women in the military I did not think about whatever differences there might be in the working conditions of the sexes. Later, my college experience had women ahead and behind me in academic progress and again I was too busy with my own plight to think about the earning power of my female fellow-students.
When someone was ready to leave the university and got a job offer, we would get excited about where our friend was going and the amount of the contract. The positions offered did not appear to differentiate between the salary of one gender and another; rather, it seemed that the differences in pay were determined more by the areas of the country where the work sites were located.
I did not pay much attention to gender differences in this regard until I was well into my career. When I first became a line officer that supervised faculty and reviewed their file to determine salary increases I noticed disparities in the salary structure that in many cases kept getting wider and wider.
These disparities became more serious as time went on because the pay raises were calculated as percentage increases that favored those that started with a higher salary. The fact that women may have had lower pay for doing the same job for the same length of time and with similar evaluations could be attributed to a variety of reasons that at the end made things stay the same.
It was the women’s movement in the 1990’s that highlighted income disparities between men and women in the United States accompanied by a demands for change. The comparison at the time did not feature a breakdown that revealed the even worse conditions for women of color.
This seems to be the case today perhaps because women as a group still have not reached their goal of wage parity with the opposite sex. I would think that if these women also emphasized the income disparities with respect to minority women and the resulting economic condition it causes, their case would be much stronger.
A case in point are Latino women that make up 16.4 percent of all females in the country and slated to become 25.7 percent of the same population by 2050. In 2013 Latinas owned one out of every ten women businesses and 36 percent of all businesses owned by minority women.
This picture however, is not matched by progress in Latino women salaried positions as they are worse off by more than 25 percent compared to women in general. Whole political campaigns have been formed around the fact that women earn 78.1 percent of what men earn doing the same job.
Latino women salaries reveal an even more serious disperity as they earn 55 cents for ever dollar earned by men in the same circumstance. Worse, Latino immigrant women earn much less than that at 40 percent of what men make.
Although it may not be politically comfortable for the women’s movement to use the information, the very poor pay for Latinas should be a cause for concern and action on the part of, at least, the Latino community. It is important to understand that finding a solution that brings women’s pay in line with men is not the answer for all women.
There is also a danger that bringing parity in pay for women and men in general may satisfy the activists for women rights to the point that pressure for continued change is diminished.