As more corporates are mandated to disclose their gender pay gap, discussions on the topic have become mainstream. But other identities such as race are largely invisible in such discussions.
A Moring Consult/ASCEND poll from April this year found that in the U.S., only 34% of white women, think that non-white women are paid less than white women for doing similar work. This is significantly lower than the proportion who think that women are paid less than men for doing similar work – 66% of white women agree. In short, this poll finds that white women see a gender pay gap but not a racial pay gap among women.
The reality however shows that there is indeed a racial pay gap among women in the U.S. – though only for Black women, Native American women and Latinas, but not for Asian women. Latest figures from the U.S. show that among women who hold full-time, year-round jobs in the U.S., black women are typically paid 61 cents, Native American women 58 cents and Latinas just 53 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. White, non-Hispanic women are paid 77 cents, and in fact, Asian American women come out the ‘highest’ at 85 cents.
“Even though white women experience a lack of privilege in one dimension, they don’t necessarily understand that they do have privilege in another dimension — which is being white,” said Katherine W. Phillips, a professor at Columbia Business School who studies diversity.
Despite the work done by intersectional feminists, who advocate for a more inclusive approach to feminism, and who acknowledge that systematic oppression is enforced not only by gender but other forms of identities, race is still largely invisible in gender discussions – including in gender pay gap discussions.
In the U.K., a group of young professionals – Global Shapers London – are working to address this by looking at how intersectionality impacts pay in the workplace. Their report highlights that “most organisations are not collecting let alone publishing any kind of intersectional data on pay, which hinders our collective ability to have data-driven conversations on this issue.” In addition to their report investigating this issue, they gathered around a dozen of companies pledging their support to an intersectionality approach in pay gap disclosures. Signatories talked about why the intersectionality approach is important in their support letters.
For Mishcon de Reya, a City law firm, this approach is important as “there is no [equal pay] law in UK for protected characteristics such as disability, race or sexual orientation”, though it exists for gender. For the National Health Services (NHS) Employers, “intersectionality… contributes to an understanding of how institutionalised rules, norms, beliefs, values, and attitudes need to be addressed to address specific forms of inequalities including pay inequality.”
If gender pay gap disclosures are to bring about equality, certain groups behind must not be left behind. True inclusion needs to go beyond gender. To get there, some groups that are disadvantaged on one dimension need to recognise that they are advantaged on other dimensions.