By now, most people are aware that working women earn less than working men and not, as the common refrain goes, because women opt for lower-paying career fields. In fact, study after study has shown that women doing the exact same job as men and with the exact same level of experience, still make less than their male counterparts.
I’ve been indignant about this for years, even though, as it turns out, I didn’t have all the facts. You see, I’ve always assumed that women in the workforce were discriminated against equally, that it was just the lack of a Y chromosome that negatively affected one’s paygrade. It wasn’t until recently (I know, I know) that I learned women of color make even less than the white women who are already making less than men. What the what?
Obviously, this would have upset me years ago if I had heard about it then, but it seems more strikingly absurd to me now because the month of March has given us such a rich and unexpected confluence of race and gender issues: There was the Selma anniversary and #BlackOutDay (still one of my most favorite things ever on the Internet), International Women’s Day and National Catholic Sisters week, the latter of which Kris Berggren covered for Global Sisters Report – we’ve basically been celebrating women and parsing out the dangerous effects of institutional racism all month.
So, yeah, the idea that non-white women can make anywhere from only 64 to 56 percent of what men make – that’s kind of infuriating. All people – regardless of gender, race or ethnicity – should be compensated fairly. That should be common sense, and yet, the idea that the work of women and people of color is somehow worth less seems a difficult one to shake.
But the thing is, even if someone truly believed that women were less competent than men, and that women of color were even less so, he wouldn’t have to look far for that view to be significantly challenged. I mean, Global Sisters Report is a single publication, and we have no shortage of stories about women doing amazing things; just in the last week, we’ve talked about Kenyan women religious who train people in nonviolent conflict resolution today and women religious who promoted equality 50 years ago.
I’ve said this kind of thing before, and if I sound like a broken record, it’s because I don’t think we can reiterate it enough. Not until it sinks in. Women are not an incompetent subspecies of human. Neither are people of color.
I, essentially, get paid to say this a lot, and I’m sure many of GSR’s readers are involved in work or ministry that emphasizes that the same point – even if in more subtle ways. My prayer this week is that we would all be encouraged to keep standing up for justice, however we are able to do so.
And stay tuned to GSR for more stories about women of faith doing amazing things!
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]