May 22, 2019
A new poll from Morning Consult shows that 66% of white women agree there is a pay gap between men and women for similar work, yet only 34% agree that a pay gap also exists between women of color and white women. The finding makes it clear that the concept of intersectionality is not fully understood or acknowledged in the workplace. Women of color work harder and wait longer for promotions and pay raises than white women do. As Chandra Childers, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, writes, “The pay gap is mostly about women of color...That pay gap is a racial gap.”
Take a look at the poll findings and notice how the more privileged an identity group is, the more blind they are to the struggles of less privileged groups. Sixty-four percent of Black women say women of color are paid less than white women—and only 33% of white men agree.
White women make an average of $46,513 a year, while women of color make $40,038. What is the pay gap between white women and women of color at your workplace or institution? If you have gender inclusion initiatives, ask whether they account for the intersection of gender and race.
After releasing a video promoting gender equality on Mother’s Day, Nike immediately came under fire for cutting female athletes’ salaries during and after pregnancy. Athletes in sports like track and field depend on sponsorship deals with athletic apparel companies to make a living—and “getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” according to formerly Nike-sponsored runner Phoebe Wright. When Olympic runner Alysia Montaño told Nike she wanted to get pregnant, she was allegedly told, “We'll just pause your contract and stop paying you.”
Refusal to pay athletes while pregnant and on leave, combined with unreasonable timetables for returning to pre-pregnancy performance levels, take a dangerous toll on women. Olympian Kara Goucher “has suffered from chronic hip injuries ever since she raced the Boston Marathon seven months after childbirth,” and both Goucher and Montaño lost their health insurance post-pregnancy due to their inability to compete at the level required by the Olympic Committee and U.S.A. Track & Field. Since the public backlash, Nike has reportedly changed their pregnancy policies, but many people are pointing to the need for a national paid parental leave program.
We echo the need for paid parental leave across all industries. As the aforementioned athletes write in the New York Times article, the lack of paid parental leave has a lasting physical, mental, and economic impact on women and their families.
Familiarize yourself with your organization’s policies regarding pregnancy and maternity. If your organization doesn’t already offer paid leave, consider advocating for a policy change—and in the political sphere, we recommend researching the issue further and backing candidates and organizations that are working for change.
Many health insurance companies are making it near impossible for people to find mental health care. On the surface, it looks like insurers cover mental health, but 34% of patients report difficulties finding a provider that takes their insurance. Insurers use “subtle methods” to bar access to care, like filling networks with clinicians who don’t actually take the insurance, requiring a prohibitive amount of paperwork for approval of treatment, and paying mental health clinicians less than other doctors, even for similar services. A 2017 report from the Trump Administration concluded that “the health insurers are not following the federal law requiring parity in the reimbursement for mental health and addiction.”
We notice that part of the reason insurers are getting away with barring access to mental health care is that mental health is still viewed as something shameful and less serious than physical health. Many point out that such a widespread lack of access “would never be tolerated if the illness were diabetes or leukemia.” One patient reflects, “I’m so tired of staying silent about this stuff and not speaking out because of the stigma that exists around mental illness.”
How difficult is it for your employees or faculty to access mental health care through the insurance you provide? Curb this trend by holding events and offering benefits that help to address and lessen the stigma of mental illness in your workplace or institution.