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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, on Tuesday commented on new data from the Department of Labor showing the burden of the wage gap for women — especially women of color — and how the coronavirus pandemic has left disproportionately more women and mothers unemployed.
The release of the data coincided with an Equal Pay Day event on Capitol Hill on March 15 – the date women in the United States must work until they receive the same amount as men the year before.
“These stats are staggering,” Pelosi said at the event. “They’re not just stunning, they’re heartbreaking.”
In 2020, women earned 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap is especially stark for Hispanic women (57 cents) and black women (64 cents) when comparing their salaries to those of non-Hispanic white men.
During the coronavirus pandemic, women lost 11.9 million jobs compared to 10.1 million jobs lost by men from February to April 2020. The Ministry of Labor also reports that 4.4 million women left the active population between February and April 2020, compared to 3.9 million men – putting the rate of participation of women in the labor market at its lowest level in 35 years in April 2020.
According to the Department of Labor report, mothers, who had to deal with canceled schools and unequal childcare, lost about 3.5 hours per work week between February and April 2020, more than the decline in 2.5 hours per week for fathers’ working hours. .
“It’s not just about the impact of a pandemic,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said at the Equal Pay Day press conference. “It’s about how low wages and limited opportunities have made women vulnerable and continue to make women vulnerable, especially women of color in this country. These injustices[s] have been created over several decades. It’s not something new.”
The Department of Labor report is titled, “Bearing the Cost: How Overrepresentation in Undervalued Jobs Disadvantaged Women During the Pandemic.” It documents how women have lost more jobs during the pandemic than men and how black and Hispanic women have experienced the greatest employment challenges.
The reasons are twofold: women – who did the majority of unpaid family care – were hardest hit when children were home from school and disabled and older family members had no more access to care services. Second, women were overrepresented in sectors that saw the worst job losses of the pandemic, such as recreation, hospitality, education, health care and childcare.
The concentration of women in low-wage jobs with few benefits is called sectoral and occupational segregation.
The report finds that segregation by industry and occupation cost black women about $39.3 billion and Hispanic women about $46.7 billion in lower wages than white men in 2019.
Federal government data also showed the pay gap in each of the states for all women, then compared for Hispanic women and black women. Overall wage gaps were highest in Wyoming (65 cents for every dollar earned by men), Utah (70 cents), Louisiana (72 cents), Oklahoma (73 cents), and Alabama (74 cents).
The states with the lowest wage gaps in 2019 were Vermont (91 cents), Maryland (89 cents), Hawaii, California (88 cents) and Nevada (87 cents).
“The pre-existing vulnerabilities of Black and Hispanic working women are due to long-standing labor market policies and practices that systematically devalue and disadvantage women, especially women of color,” the Department of Labor report said. “Because of the legacy of slavery, racial and gender stereotypes that black women ‘should’ work outside the home persist.
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“Discrimination against black men has also led to lower incomes and underemployment, creating a financial necessity for black women to work for pay to support their families,” the report continues. “Because of these and other factors, black women have had higher labor force participation rates than white women since the data was collected.”
Data from the Department of Labor also showed the wage gap in each of the states for all women, then compared for Hispanic women and black women. For example, data released Tuesday shows that in California, Hispanic women lost $14.5 billion in wages in 2019 and black women lost $1.5 billion due to occupational and industrial segregation.