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September 15th is Native Women Equal Pay Day

September 15, 2016

Today is Native Women Equal Pay Day. On average, Native women receive 59 cents to the dollar of their White male counterparts. [1] This means Native women are receiving 40 percent less income annually and have to work 21 months to catch up with an average White male’s annual earnings. In order to reduce this disparity and injustice, we need to focus on its root causes and demand solutions.

The gender wage gap is a significant problem in America and it particularly shocking and egregious for women of color, including Native women. Longstanding, historical inequities that impoverish tribes and Native people exacerbate the gender wage gap for Native women. Twenty-five percent of Native women live in poverty – the highest rate among women when broken down into racial and ethnic groups. [2]

Poverty and the wage gap have a particularly harmful impact on Native women who also experience epidemic levels of sexual and domestic violence. While the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2013 restored tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence committed on tribal lands and therefore increase the criminal justice response to violence, we need to equally invest in economic justice for Native women to fortify avenues to safety and justice for survivors.

Economic independence is a strong predictor in whether a woman will stay or have the ability to leave her abuser. Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse which comes in the form of stealing credit cards, stealing a partner’s identity, refusing to allow their partner to go to work or causing a victim to be fired from their job, just to name a few. An abuser can cause serious financial harm to a survivor and the length of time a woman will be able to financially recover is multiplied without adequate pay for their work. Addressing poverty and equal pay help to underpin women’s economic freedom, and ultimately their safety.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) supports a number of bills that would address equal pay:

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act strives to update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes, making it harder for employers to hide discrimination, rewarding companies with good pay practices, and training women and girls in salary negotiation.
  • The SAFE Act ensures survivors do not have to risk their safety to protect their economic security. This act guarantees many protections for survivors including protecting survivors from being fired due to harassment by their abuser, ensuring that survivors who have been separated from employment due to abuse are eligible for unemployment insurance, and creating a national awareness campaign to create a culture of prevention and support for survivors.

NNEDV also works on broader anti-poverty measures, including housing and access to benefits. We encourage our supporters to join us in these fights to chip away at the gendered and racial wage and wealth disparities that keep survivors unsafe.

[1] National Congress of American Indians. “Policy Insights Brief: Statistics on Violence Against Native Women.” (2013).

[2] National Women’s Law Center. “National Snapshot: Poverty Among Women & Families, 2014.” (2014).