What we’re not talking about when we talk about equal pay

Screen capture of video for AAPI Equal Pay Day from 2017. (Photo credit: NAPAWF)

By Guest Contributor: Sung Yeon Choimorrow (Executive Director, NAPAWF)

The gender pay gap is the difference between what men and women earn for doing the same work, and it varies for different sub-groups of women. In 2019, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women earned 90 cents for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men made. Today marks the symbolic day in 2020 when we “catch up” to white men’s earnings from the previous year. The wage gap exists in every state and every occupation, regardless of education—but there’s so much more to the story hidden by the averages. 

The term AAPI includes more than 50 ethnic subgroups, some of which experience much wider pay gaps. Vietnamese American women, for example, made 67 cents for every dollar white men made last year and Cambodian American women made 57 cents. These women will have to work for several more months for their paychecks to catch up while the lost wages compound. 

Asian Americans have long been depicted as “model minorities” in this country. It’s a persistent myth that all Asians are the same and we’re all high-achieving with stable incomes. By failing to recognize our lived experiences, the myth makes it easier to dismiss our struggles and reinforces the misconception that Asian people don’t need resources or support. 

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It’s 2017 and AAPI Women Still Aren’t Getting Equal Pay for Equal Work | #AAPIEqualPay

Screen capture of video for AAPI Equal Pay Day. (Photo credit: NAPAWF)

Today is AAPI Equal Pay Day, a day to highlight the persistent wage gap experienced by AAPI women, transgender, and non-binary people. In fact, even though the AAPI community is the fastest-growing racial community in America, AAPI women continue to make only 85 cents to the dollar a White, non-Hispanic man of comparable education earns.

Over the course of a lifetime, that can translate to nearly half a million dollars in lost income for AAPI women compared to White male co-workers. In fact, an AAPI woman has to achieve a master’s degree or higher just to be paid the same wage as a White man who has earned a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, AAPI women must work on average an extra two months to receive the same annual income as a White man.

Average annual income for Asian American women and White men, compared to educational attainment. (Photo credit: NWLC)

When examining the in-race wage gap, the statistics are even more dire. Within the AAPI community, AAPI women make only about 80 cents to the dollar AAPI men earn. This translates to the largest in-group gender wage gap across all races or ethnicities.

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