Native Women's Equal Pay Day

4 min read
Nov 30, 2022 6:00:00 AM

November 30, 2022 is Native Women’s Equal Pay Day. 

Native women in the United States earn 51 cents for every dollar white men earn. This means Native women would have to work all of 2021 plus 11 months into 2022 to earn what white men earned in 2021 alone. 

Native Women’s Equal Pay Day serves as an opportunity to reflect on this wage gap and consider what we can do to close it.

The state of the wage gap for Native women

Native Americans represent less than 3% of the U.S. population, so many studies and reports group this community in with other underrepresented demographic groups. This makes it challenging to gain a full understanding of the wage gap for Native women so we can adequately address it. 

The data we do have shows a deep wage gap for Native women and hints at some of the underlying causes:

    • The uncontrolled pay gap for all employed Native women is 49%. Native American women in the U.S. are paid 49% less than white men and 30% less than white women, on average, for full-time year-round workers and part-time workers. This results in a difference of $25,253 per year compared to white men. 
    • The uncontrolled pay gap for Native women employed full-time is 43%. Native women working full time, year round earn 57 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts, which varies by tribal nation.
    • An opportunity gap is affecting lifetime earning potential for Native women. White men are more likely to be managers, directors, or executives than Native women, who are more likely to be individual contributors. While 6% of white men are executives, only 3% of Native women are. And 59% of white men are individual contributors, while 63% of Native women are. These may not seem like big differences, though the gap is seen more clearly when you consider population data. There are 98.6M white men and 1.35 Native women in the United States. When multiplied by the percentage of each who are executives (6% and 3%, respectively), we find there is only one Native woman in an executive role for every  143 white men in an executive role.
    • The pay gap widens as Native women progress in their careers. When data are uncontrolled for compensable factors, Native women in individual contributor roles earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by white men and Native women in executive roles earn 61 cents. When data are controlled for compensable factors, Native women in individual contributor roles earn $1.01 for every $1 white men earn, while Native women in executive roles earn just 89 cents compared to their white, male colleagues.

3 ways to address pay inequities for Native women

There are a myriad of ways we can tackle the pay gap for Native women, though a few stand out based on the wage gap data for this community.

1. Address occupational segregation and the opportunity gap

Native women are more likely to hold lower-paying jobs. That can mean they’re underemployed in part-time roles, stalled in entry-level roles, or segregated into female-dominated roles.

Organizations can address this by hiring and promoting more Native women into their higher-paying positions. As Native Americans make up about 3% of the US population, companies can make it a goal to have similar representation among their workforce. A shift toward remote work can make this more realistic for organizations headquartered in locations with a smaller Native community.

Hired data demonstrates how effective this single strategy can be. Native women who have a bachelor's degree and work in the tech industry see a 29% uncontrolled pay gap. But when data are controlled for compensable factors, that gap shrinks to 1%. 

This is an indication that an overrepresentation of Native women in lower-paying tech industry roles equates to lower average earnings for this community compared to white men. But when Native women work in the same roles (and have the same qualifications) as their white, male colleagues, the pay gap virtually disappears. 

Paying attention to things like talent pipeline diversity, promotion rates, and representation at each job level can make a powerful impact on the wage gap.

2. Measure pay equity

Even when Native women are represented in higher-paying roles, they aren’t necessarily compensated fairly. Run regular pay equity analyses to see how pay data compares among different intersectional groups at your organization.

For example, look at compa-ratios to see whether Native women are paid equitably for their job level and how compa distribution compares to that of your organization as a whole. 

Then look at the average salary for Native women compared to other intersectional groups to spot any discrepancies. A large wage gap may indicate that Native women are overrepresented in lower-paying roles at your organization.

If you see pay gaps, take steps to correct them. Building strategic adjustments into your regular compensation review cycle is a great way to improve pay equity rather than perpetuating the wage gap.

3. Provide family-friendly benefits and policies

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Native American mothers are breadwinners, the majority of whom are single mothers. On average, working mothers spend 8 hours a day on direct and secondary child care while working 6.1 hours. 

Family-friendly benefits and policies can better enable Native women to balance family responsibilities with full-time, year-round work. This includes flexible work arrangements, child care benefits, and paid family leave.

But beware of the motherhood penalty, in which women’s wages fail to keep up with their peers when they add new children to the family. The motherhood penalty is estimated at 15% of a woman’s income per child under age 5 and can’t be explained by other factors like seniority or education. Regular pay equity analyses should help you keep this in check.

Final thoughts on Native women’s Equal Pay Day

Each Equal Pay Day is a reminder of the social inequities that continue to plague the workplace so it’s clear just how much work still needs to be done. 

Native women have to work 23 months to earn what white men earn in just 12, contributing to high levels of poverty and low generational wealth within this community. There’s still so much progress to be made, and your organization can make a difference in closing the pay gap for Native women — and people from all historically marginalized groups.

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