Gender and Race Pay Gaps: How a Wal-Mart Greeter Might Just Help Us All

BlogHer Original Post

The latest information that we have about pay gaps -- both gender-based gaps and race-based gaps -- is from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has released an analysis of first-quarter earnings for 2010 that contains some surprising facts.

First, women still lag behind men. According to the report, "Women who usually worked full-time had median earnings of $665 per week in the first quarter of 2010, or 78.8 percent of the $844 median for men."

That men were paid more than women held true across all racial lines. But that is not the only news.

Here is how it broke down by race:

Female-to-Male Earnings Percentage

African Americans - Women earned 92% of their male counterparts' pay.
Hispanics - Women earned 85.6% of their male counterparts' pay.
Asians - Women earned 81.6% of their male counterparts' pay.
Whites - Women earned 78% of their male counterparts' pay.

If one just looks at those numbers, it would be easy to misconstrue the reality of race in America. This group of stats may lead one to believe that African-American women have fared better in the pay gap than all other race-groupings of women. While that fact may be true, let's look at the base from which it operates. Let's look at:

Median Full-Time Earnings By Race

African-American men - $635/wk (73% of the below)
White men - $869/wk

African-American women - $584/wk (86% of the below)
White women - $678/wk

While the gap may be closer intraracially for African Americans, they still occupy, on average, more of the low-paying jobs than do white Americans.

When men and women of each race are combined, another interesting profile emerges.

Median Weekly Pay With Sexes Combined

Asian Combined - $859
White Combined - $772
African-American Combined - $610
Hispanic Combined - $554

The earnings gaps are still severe, among races and between men and women. Despite any hope for the contrary, women continue to be the brunt of two potential factors that can shape our income, our race and our sex.

But could this be the result of the fact that this survey scoops up all economic strata of workers? Could it be that women who manage to get into the higher echelon jobs are doing a great deal better in the those jobs?

The Higher-Paid Jobs

Forbes studied the 2009 data and determined that, although the The U.S. Department of Labor states that "(51%) of workers in high-paying management and professional jobs are female," the 10 top-paying jobs for women still had a gender gap -- with women being paid, on average, 20 percent less than their male counterpart. They looked at the jobs (in order of best pay): chief executive, pharmacist, lawyer, computer and information systems manager, software engineer, physician/surgeon, computer programmer, management analyst, computer systems analyst and occupational therapist.

I have some issues with this list, as no job grosses above $100K, and doctors are sixth on the list. But even with that concern, the gap still exists between men and women. And this is true no matter where we look. But there is one action being taken by a Wal-Mart greeter that may help to change all that.

A Woman Who is Doing Something About It

Call it Betty vs. Goliath: The U.S. Supreme Court will soon be hearing the class-action suit of a former Wal-Mart employee, 60-year-old Betty Dukes. This is the largest class-action suit in history. Ms. Dukes has accused the supermarket giant of being in contempt of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This Act makes it illegal for companies to discriminate on the basis of gender or race.

The dispute has been ongoing for nine years. If Wal-Mart loses, it may have to pay billions as a result. An estimated one million former and current female employees may receive compensation for discrimination.

Ms. Dukes, a Baptist minister, said:

"In this life, you have to stand up or be trampled." After the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the case progressing last week, she said that she was not deterred by the Biblical scale of her battle. "David had five stones, but only needed one," she said.

Do you think she'll make history? Will it help?

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool

Recent Posts by Mata H

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