Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth “I have a plan for that” Warren pledged Friday to help close the pay gap suffered by women of color, especially by women who are black or brown.
On the heels of a planned appearance at the Essence Festival, one of the largest gatherings of black women in the country, the Massachusetts Democrat announced that if she became president, she would address systemic pay and workplace-leadership issues impacting women of color through a series of executive orders targeting federal contractors.
“Employers tilt the playing field against women of color at every stage of employment,” Warren wrote Friday in a post on Medium. “During the hiring process, employers use salary history to make new offers — creating a cycle where women of color are locked into lower wages.”
“The path to higher-level management jobs is also rockier for women of color,” Warren added, “a reflection in part of having fewer networking and mentorship opportunities with members of their same race and gender.”
Warren said the executive orders she would issue on “day one” in office would help fix these issues.
To address the underrepresentation of women of color in leadership in the federal workforce, Warren says she would issue an order to recruit from historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions; establish paid fellowships for federal jobs for minority and low-income applicants, including formerly incarcerated people; and require federal agencies to incorporate diversity into their strategic plans and mentorship efforts.
Another order targets companies and contractors disproportionately employing women of color. Under the proposal, Warren would ban companies seeking federal contracts from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses, which she argues make it more difficult for employees to fight wage theft, discrimination and harassment, issues particularly affecting minority women.
Contractors also would be banned from asking applicants for past salary information and criminal histories and would have to pay a $15 minimum hourly wage and offer benefits including paid family leave, fair scheduling and collective bargaining rights to all employees.
In her Medium post, Warren outlined why leveling the playing field for women of color is so important:
More than 70% of Black mothers and more than 40% of Latina mothers are their families’ sole breadwinners — compared to less than a quarter of white mothers. Black women participate in the labor force at higher rates than white women, and Latinas’ share of the labor force has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.
While millions of families count on Latinas and Black women to deliver financially, they face a steeper climb to provide that financial security. In 2017, Black women were paid 61 cents for every dollar white men made. Native women made 58 cents to a white man’s dollar — and Latinas earned just 53 cents to a white man’s dollar*. And it’s getting worse: the gap in weekly earnings between white and Black women is higher today than it was forty years ago.
Warren’s pledge came on the day the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the latest jobless numbers.
As the Washington Post reports, the national unemployment rate remains near historic lows, at 3.7 percent, but wages remain a problem:
[...] wage gains continue to be weaker in this expansion than they were in the 1990s boom.
Average hourly pay grew 3.1 percent in the past year, above the cost of living, but a bit weaker than economists were expecting.
And, as Bureau of Labor Statistics data show, the unemployment rate among blacks, at 6 percent, remains almost double that of the national rate.