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Elizabeth Warren has a plan to close the gender pay gap for women of colour

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Sarah Shaffi
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Elizabeth Warren plans to tackle the gender pay gap for women of colour if she becomes president.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has a firm idea of how she wants to eliminate the gender pay gap.

With her straight-talking approach to political issues, Elizabeth Warren is making a good case for becoming the next president of the United States.

Ahead of the 2020 election, Warren has impressed voters by giving a firm answer when asked if she thinks former vice president Joe Biden was wrong about the Hyde Amendment – which bans federal funding for abortion – and set out how she plans to fight back against extreme abortion bans, such as those which have recently been passed in Missouri and Alabama.

Her honesty and thoughtfulness is appealing at a time when many politicians, including the current president Donald Trump, seem to speak without thinking and without having a concrete idea of how they’ll fulfil their promises.

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Warren has now tackled another pressing subject: the gender pay gap. The issue has been much discussed lately in the context of the Women’s Football World Cup – female footballers are paid less than their male counterparts regardless of success. Two of the world’s best players – Hope Solo and Ada Hegerberg – refused to play in the tournament to protest against pay inequality, while Megan Rapinoe, captain of the triumphant US team, called Fifa out in a pre-game press conference for the pay disparity between men and women.

High-profile women (including actresses like Michelle Williams and Octavia Spencer) calling out and exposing the gender pay gap in their industries will have a positive effect for all women, but it’s also important to remember that thousands of women without an international platform also suffer the effects of the gender pay gap.

Warren is doing just this, turning her attention to the people most affected by the gender pay gap: women of colour. 

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In her latest Medium post, Warren quoted statistics that show black women were paid 61 cents for every dollar white men earned, while Native women made 58 cents and Latina women earned 53 cents to a white man’s dollar.

“And it’s getting worse,” wrote Warren, “the gap in weekly earnings between white and black women is higher today than it was 40 years ago.”

She continued: “Employers tilt the playing field against women of colour at every stage of employment. During the hiring process, employers use salary history to make new offers — creating a cycle where women of colour are locked into lower wages. Once in the workplace, black and brown women are disproportionately mistreated. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of black and Latina women reported experiencing racial discrimination at work.”

Warren also said the path to higher-level management jobs was “rockier for women of colour”, which was partly a result of having “fewer networking and mentorship opportunities with members of their same race and gender”.

To counter the problems facing women of colour in the workplace, Warren has proposed a series of measures to help boost wages and open up new pathways to leadership positions. And she’s also pledged to make the government look more like America, because “the federal government does a dismal job on diversity and inclusion”.

If she becomes president, Warren says all companies with federal contracts – which employ roughly a quarter of the US workforce in total – will have new rules imposed on them. These include denying contracts to companies with poor track records on diversity and equal pay, and banning companies who want government contracts from using forced arbitration and non-compete causes that restrict workers’ rights, and from asking applicants for past salary information and criminal histories.

Federal contractors under a Warren administration will also be required to pay a $15 minimum wage to all employees, and extend benefits including paid family leave and collective bargaining rights to them.

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Warren also plans to direct the federal government to diversify recruitment, directing “real resources towards attracting entry-level applicants from HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions”. She also wants paid fellowship programmes for federal jobs for minority and low-income applicants, including those who have serves prison sentences, and the opening of promotion pathways by supporting a government-wide mentorship programme which centres black and brown employees.

Warren concluded by writing: “It’s time to build an America that recognises the role that women of colour play in their families and in the economy, that fairly values their work, and that delivers equal opportunity for everyone.”

Amen to that. 

Images: Getty

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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