AAPIs Need to be Part of the Equal Pay Conversation

A protest sign demanding equal pay. (Photo credit: Steve Rappaport / Creative Commons)

Today is AAPI Equal Pay Day, the day in 2020 when an Asian American or Pacific Islander woman would — on average — finally earn as much money as a typical white man if both worked through all of 2019.

In the aggregate, AAPI women make about 90 cents to the dollar of white men, a statistic that is both troubling and that still overlooks disaggregated data showing an even starker gender wage gap for many AAPI ethnic subgroups. Many Southeast Asian American and Pacific Islander women, for example, earn less than 70 cents to the dollar a white man earns, but this fact is lost when only aggregated income statistics about the AAPI community are reported.

An infographic about AAPI Equal Pay Day created by NAPAWF.

The conversation around equal pay often overlooks women of colour, in general, and the many ways that race nuances and complicates the conversation. While white women make, for example, about 80 cents to the dollar of a white man, that figure is far lower for Black and Brown women who typically make about 65 cents to the dollar. Furthermore, while Asian American women appear to earn an income close to (but not quite) that of white men, Asian American women make on the whole only about 75 cents to the dollar of Asian American men — a potentially more apt comparison for how gender might affect Asian American women’s pay.

Taken together, these findings suggest that pay and labour inequity persists as a serious issue within communities of colour — including for AAPIs — and that we must continue to push ourselves into the national conversation around the gender pay gap.

Table 2 from “The Gender Wage Gap: 2018 Earning Differences by Race and Ethnicity” by the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research.

These numbers also allude to even harsher complications for AAPI women in the workforce. Asian American women are often racialized and gendered stereotyping — and sometimes even endure open sexual harassment — in the workplace, and are less likely than their male peers to be promoted into leadership positions. Furthermore, poverty and unemployment rates are even starker for non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals, including for AAPI trans people.

Pay and labour inequity persists as a serious issue within communities of colour — including for AAPIs — and… we must continue to push ourselves into the national conversation around the gender pay gap.

The lost wages associated with the gender pay gap has profound impact for AAPIs, and can amount to thousands of dollars each year — and nearly a quarter of a million dollars over a working person’s lifetime. As with other communities of colour, AAPI women and children are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line compared to whites — an issue that only worsens for immigrant women and children. We need laws — like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the HEAL Act — to finally ensure equal pay and access to other forms of support for all.

Today, Asian American advocacy groups are drawing attention to the issue of equal pay gap as it affects Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. They are hosting a Twitter townhall at #AAPIEqualPay (2pm EST/11am PST). Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of NAPAWF, also penned an op-ed drawing attention to AAPI Equal Pay Day, published here on Reappropriate. Please join the conversation now to demand legislation finally ending the pay gap for AAPIs and for all women and non-binary folks.

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