By Brian Sims and Donna Bullock
Next week, Pennsylvanians will get get a visit from the U.S. women’s soccer team.
We’re more than excited to celebrate with the world champions, but their upcoming visit reminds us of their struggle as well.
Their continued success on the field has not translated into fair compensation to rival other elite teams. Despite repeated triumphs in the World Cup, the team is still at the negotiating table for fair wages.
Their fight is echoed in the millions of women experiencing wage disparity in the U.S., from women employed by Fortune 500 companies to hourly wage earners. Simply put, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to feel the effects of the gender wage gap.
Pay inequality cuts across both race and gender lines — having a greater negative impact on Black women than white women. This past Thursday, Aug. 22, was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that a Black woman’s income matches what a white man earned last calendar year.
On average, Black women are paid only 61 cents for every dollar that a white man is paid. These statistics have damaging effects for Black women — resulting in earnings of $840,040 less over a 40-year career.
That means less saved in pensions and retirement accounts, forcing Black women to work longer to afford to live. Imagine that you dedicate your 40-year career, your life, to a company and as you move into retirement you have almost one million dollars less than your white male counterparts after doing the same work.
Imagine the impact of one million less on your investments in the stock market, education, and homeownership, not to mention the deficit in what you’ll pass down to children and grandchildren.
Now imagine the effects of the wage gap as a single mother. Seventy percent of Black mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their household and wage inequality has been making it near impossible to afford childcare, health insurance, and college tuition.
If we go without addressing the wage gap, we’re allowing for this cycle to continue and ensuring that systematic inequality continues for generations to come. With Philadelphia having some of the highest rates of poverty among U.S. cities, this is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.
There is a lot that we can do to close the pay gap in Pennsylvania to ensure that Black women don’t have to work an extra nine months to be on a level playing field.
The Pennsylvania Legislature urgently needs to pass a $15 minimum wage, so almost 96,300 workers in Pennsylvania are finally paid a living wage.
Rep. Sims’ House Bill 850 takes it a step further to ensure that a differences in wages can only be based on a bona fide seniority system, no longer cloaked in mystery, and parental leave may not count against that seniority.
We can prohibit employers from asking for salary history and break the cycle of women earning less throughout their careers. These remedies will require our colleagues – the Republican majority in our Legislature – to finally bring equal pay legislation up for a vote. It’s past due.
The U.S. women’s soccer team, some of the world’s best athletes, are leading the fight for a level playing field for women on the global stage.
It is time for us to do the same for Black women in Pennsylvania.
State Reps. Brian Sims and Donna Bullock are Democratic members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, respectively representing the Philadelphia-based 182nd and 195th House Districts. They write from Harrisburg.