The COVID-19 pandemic has brought gender-based differences into even sharper focus. One in three jobs held by women have been designated as essential, with nonwhite women more likely to be performing essential work than anyone else. In particular, 72% of grocery store cashiers, 89% of home care workers and 91% of nurses are women. At the same time, women have long performed caretaking duties at home disproportionately for children and elderly loved ones. And it does not end there: now with school closures, women are stepping in to teach their children.
In the summer of 2020, the Utah Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report examining the gender wage gap in Utah. The committee’s report findings and recommendations are based on testimony received during a hearing in November of 2019. Academics, advocacy organizations, policy analysts and individuals impacted by the gender wage gap provided testimony discussing factors that likely contribute to the gender wage gap, the impact of the gender wage gap on women of color, and the impact of federal and state level enforcement efforts aimed to address pay inequity.
While the committee’s findings predate the COVID-19 pandemic, several points still raise concern as the country experiences economic instability and relies, more than ever, on labor performed by women. For instance, Utah has a higher share of part-time workers than the rest of the U.S., with 38% of Utah women versus 28% at the national level. Part-time workers earning less income coupled with not having employee-sponsored benefits puts employed women in an extremely vulnerable position.
Women also make up two-thirds of the workforce in jobs that pay the federal minimum wage and make up 70% of tipped workers in the U.S. In addition to women making up a large majority of low-wage jobs, women of color constitute almost a quarter of minimum wage workers. The composition of workers in minimum wage and tipped minimum wage jobs is of concern because these workers experience twice the poverty rate than the rest of the U.S. workforce and have economic insecurity.
The gender wage gap for women working full-time, year round in Utah is 70 cents per dollar earned by white men — 10 cents lower than national figures, where women earn 80 cents per dollar, respectively. Women of color face an even larger gender wage gap in Utah compared with white men. Hispanic women earn 47 cents, Black women 52 cents, Native American women 54 cents and Asian women 67 cents for each dollar paid to white men.
During such a crucial time of economic instability, it is important that we do not leave behind women who have been the backbone of this nation(.)
It is time to ensure women are paid equally, raise the minimum wage, eliminate the subminimum wage and provide adequate support for women in the labor force, such as paid family leave. During such a crucial time of economic instability, it is important that we do not leave behind women who have been the backbone of this nation, especially those most vulnerable to these disparities.
It is also time for the Utah legislative and executive branch to address this long overdue need for equality. Please write to your state senator and representative and the Utah governor to express the need for this statutory correction. The time is now.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, established by the Civil Rights Act of 1957, is the only independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights and reporting annually on federal civil rights enforcement. Our 51-state advisory committees offer a broad perspective on civil rights concerns at state and local levels. The Utah Advisory Committee members are: Betty Sawyer, Chyleen Richey, Carolina Nuñez, Filia Uipi, Glenn Bailey, Jeanetta Williams, Michael Homer, Michael Melendez, Michelle Suzuki, Sachin Pavithran and Virginius “Jinks” Dabney. To see their full report with findings and recommendation, visit https://www.usccr.gov/files/2020-07-28-UT-SAC-Gender-Wage-Gap-Report.pdf.