The Barr Trail Mountain Race, a historic summer run based in Manitou Springs, was held July 16. In the sports world, winning male athletes, just like men in general in the workplace, are often paid more than their female counterparts. But this year, in an act of advocacy, the Barr race committee paid women winners 20 percent more prize money than their male counterparts.
No, two wrongs don't make a right, but sitting around in silence and inaction isn't working either. Using the race as a visual to draw attention to pay inequity is helpful, yet a large portion of the pay gap problem goes unaddressed. According to the National Women's Law Center, African-American women across occupations (from medical professionals to construction laborers) make less than white, non-Hispanic men in the same positions, and are overrepresented in the nation's most poorly paid jobs.
Take, for example, the plight of food workers, an industry in Colorado that, according to a 2015 report by the Colorado Fiscal Institute, employs many minority women. A study done by the Applied Research Center asserts: "People of color typically make less than whites working in the food chain. Half of white food workers earn $25,024 a year, while workers of color make $5,675 less than that." The report goes on to say: "For every dollar a white male worker earns, women of color earn almost half of that."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses the city of Colorado Springs, had an average hourly wage of $22.89 in May 2015, close to the nationwide average of $23.23. This number is far higher than the hourly wage of food service workers — who in Colorado earn as little as $9.30 an hour — and far higher than the wages of many women and people of color working in other industries.
The Barr Trail Mountain Race prize money was a shout out to women's pay equity but where's the race for racial pay equity? Such a race would likely need to be held at 2 a.m. and have a subsidized entry fee, so those like me — who have barely made it paycheck-to-paycheck while balancing child-rearing and school — could participate. It would also need to include at least an eight-week training camp (food included), of race preparation. Now that would be a truly representative visual for equal pay.
Men, put yourselves in my high heels. Imagine waking up before the sun, getting three children fed, backpacks packed, homework checked and ready for school, then heading into the office to work in the area in which you've been trained. Now imagine no matter the hours invested; certifications, accolades and awards received; or the quality of your work product, your opposite sex co-worker makes significantly more than you for the same job. That's despite the fact that you, and many like you, have already put in a significant amount of work just to be there.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women are more likely to pursue higher education than men. Moreover, during 2012-13, more undergraduate degrees and certificates were awarded to female students than to male, both broadly and within specific racial/ethnic groups.
Fortunately I work for an equal opportunity employer who pays fairly, but this is not the case for many of the Springs' working women, and wasn't always the case for me. I am hard-pressed to quantify the cost of what has gotten me where I am today: countless hours of volunteering and work in positions that paid slightly above minimum wage, while going to school. This was in an effort to move myself toward the city's median income. I still have not arrived. And no disrespect intended, but I have met very few white men who work like that without receiving proper compensation for it.
Low wages and the pay gap are a hard pill to swallow, particularly when impoverished women (and women of color) are viewed as lazy welfare recipients, unwilling to work. Really? It seems to me that those who believe women should pick themselves up by their bootstraps should try walking a mile in our shoes. For women of color that's a feat that requires more effort and reaps fewer rewards.
The pay gap is an injustice that all women across the nation have been forced to deal with. Even if the gap between white men and women is closed, by current standards minority women are still left at a deficit.