Remarks By Vice President Harris Before A Roundtable Discussion On Equal Pay Day
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
:47 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In essence, what we were talking about is that Equal Pay Day is today, but Equal Pay Day is every day when we look at the disparities based on gender on how people are paid.
And what we have talked about so far is that every one of us has a mother, a grandmother, a sister, ourselves, a daughter, a niece who is or has experienced this — those women who have worked hard, who have worked with passion and not been paid their value, and often are paid differently than their male counterparts.
What we talked about is that this is an issue that should not require that specific or individual woman to fight by herself. It is something that should require national attention with collective action. And it is also founded in the understanding — the understanding that when you raise the economic status of women, you raise the economic status of families, of communities, and all of society benefits. And so that is the spirit with which we approach this — which it is not only about fairness and equity for that individual working person; it is to the benefit of the entire society.
I don’t need to tell this group, but I’ll say it for the sake of the friends who are joining us: On average, women make 82 cents of what men make — 82 cents on the dollar — Black women, 63 cents; Native women, 60 cents; Hispanic women, 55; and Asian American 87 percent — or 80 cents on the dollar.
So, when we look at the issue, we also see the interconnection between race and gender, which is something that is not only about equal pay, but many other issues that we need to address, and we do collectively address.
When we look at the reasons, we know that there are a couple of reasons. One, when we look at, of course, pay discrimination, we have to demand — we have to demand transparency. So that’s one of the things that many of us have worked on together, which is, again, let’s not make that woman prove and have to go through all of the steps that often might require litigation to prove the inequity and the unfairness of her situation and circumstances in terms of not being paid equal for equal work.
We should require the system itself to be transparent and — and display and share for everyone how they are paying their workforce, and whether there was parity and equity in the way that that is being done.
And so for that reason, we have to hold employers accountable; we have to hold corporations accountable — to put the onus not on that singular woman, who is probably also challenged with trying to get daycare going — maybe she’s in what we call the “sandwich generation,” and she’s taking care of children and parents, trying to juggle everything else and — and then, also having to prove what — the thing that should be proven in terms of the burden being placed not on her, but on the employer themselves.
We know that women — and to this point — take a greater share of caregiving in households, and so they are more likely to work part time. They are more likely to perhaps not take full advantage of what might be promotions or extra work and — because that would require her to work around the clock or at hours that she cannot work because of her responsibilities, in terms of her family.
We should be looking at that too, on the issue of pay equity, which is what are we doing in the workplay [sic] — in the workplace to allow women to pursue their career to seek advancement, without having to take on so many sacrifices because of the other traditional duties of a woman, especially in the context of a family.
We should also appreciate that women are overrepresented in professions that are underpaid. And so let’s address that. Two in three workers making the federal minimum wage or less are women. And just so everyone is clear — I know all the friends are — the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The math on that is $15,000 a year for working a 40-hour week. So let’s deal with that. Let’s deal with the fact that one in three of those women are women of color. So these are some of the issues.
Then, before I close my comments, I’ll also mention what we — what we have sought to address in terms of this issue in the context then of the pandemic, which, as many of us know, has been — what I like to say, it’s been an accelerator in many ways. Those things that were fissures and fractures and failures of the system that existed since time — since the beginning of time only became more apparent and exaggerated during the course of the pandemic.
And so that relates to everything in terms of affordable childcare, the availability of childcare, paid sick leave, paid family leave, all of those issues that contribute to the disparities in the workplace based on gender.
So one of the things that we did with the American Rescue Plan is recognizing that over 2 million women had to leave the workforce. We attempted to address it, in terms of doing what we could to acknowledge the widening wage gap — address that around issues, again, about childcare and small businesses, but also about the checks that we sent out — $1,400 checks. And I’m told that we reached the 100 millionth check today.
But the idea was to get — get folks and get workers, including women workers, to have the assistance they need to survive these days to get back up on their feet.
The — and then we also are dealing with, in the American Rescue Plan, a vision. And the vision is about what we need to do around the care infrastructure; what we need to do — and I know we have a number of folks who are leaders in this regard on this — in this meeting.
Small businesses — one of my particular areas of focus. And I’m really excited about it. I’ve been working with Janet Yellen as — around access to capital for small businesses and with a particular sight on what is happening with women-owned small businesses and minority-owned small businesses.
There is the work we need to do around giving workers a voice and giving them their power. Recently, I convened — and some of them are on the — on the Zoom — women leaders in labor — in organized labor — unions — talking about what we need to do collectively, again, to uplift and understand the value and the dignity of work, but also see the connection between women who work as union members and pay disparities, meaning they actually better pay when they are a member of union than when they are not. And so how are we dealing with that.
And the bottom line is this: This is an issue that should not be and is not just a woman’s issue. You know, I’ve been the first woman in many positions I’ve held. And people say, “Well, then talk to me about women’s issues.” You know, these reporters would put a microphone in front of you. “Talk to me about women’s issues.” And I look at them, and I say, “You know what? I am so glad you want to talk about the economy.” (Laughter.) Because that’s the reality: When you deal with the economic condition of America, you must address the economic condition of women.
And with that, I will now turn the proverbial microphone over to the Chair of our Council on Economic Advisers, Ceci Rouse.
END 3:55 P.M. EDT