Equal Pay Day and COVID-19

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Equal Pay Day and COVID-19

Categories: Blog

by Julie McBratney, Director of Communications

anonymous women
Ten of the survivors currently in YWCA’s domestic violence shelter are working because their jobs, in grocery stores, home health care, hospitals, retail, etc., are considered essential during this time of crisis.

Last Monday was Equal Pay Day, a day it was admittedly hard to focus on this year amidst the upheaval of COVID-19. It’s hard for us to focus on anything other than getting the help and services needed to the most economically vulnerable among us. And that population is disproportionately women, and especially women of color.

Equal Pay Day was March 31 this year because that’s how many days into 2020 the average woman would have to work to earn what the average man did in 2019. For Black Women, the date is actually August 13. For Latina Women, it’s October 1.

COVID-19 heightens these systemic inequalities. According to Shelley Zallis in Equal Pay Day in Our New Normal:

  • Women hold the majority of jobs that are jeopardized by widespread shutdowns. Of the 4.4 million workers who rely on tips to earn a living in the United States, two-thirds are women.
  • Women also hold the majority of jobs that put them on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. Globally, women make up 70% of workers in the health and social care sector.

As Lilly Ledbetter writes in Everything Feels Different this Equal Pay Day, “the COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly exposed the brutal economic reality of low-paid women workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis…As millions of us shelter in place and telework, home health aides are out caring for our sick family members, grocery store cashiers and clerks are giving us access to the food and supplies we need to stay healthy, and childcare workers are keeping our children safe. These workers are predominately women. And they are at high risk of viral exposure in each of these essential jobs. But so many lack the basic protections of a decent wage, paid sick and family leave, and employer-sponsored health care.”

The COVID-19 crisis makes us all feel vulnerable — and maybe also helps us recognize that we all need one another. Without the grocery store clerk who stocks the shelves with items we need, and dreams of a better paying job, where would we be? Without the home health care aide who continues to visit our elderly family members when we can’t, where would we be? Without the healthcare worker who helps care for patients during the day and stays in our YWCA emergency shelter at night, where would we be?

In our 89 years of existence, YWCA Evanston/North Shore has helped lift up and empower thousands of women in our communities by providing safe housing, emergency shelter, legal advocacy, childcare, financial education, job skills, and housing assistance. Today, that need is greater than ever, and it’s abundantly clear how much we all need one another.

Let’s learn from this crisis, and commit to valuing equally the work of women. The health of our communities ALWAYS depends on it.