The wage gap is bad for Rhode Island women, its worse for women of color

By Juan Espinoza
Economic Progress Institute.

The wage gap between women and men is often mentioned as one of the hardest barriers for women to overcome in the workforce. However, Rhode Island’s women of color face even higher barriers to economic security. A new infographic co-released by the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and the Economic Progress Institute shows how women of color are faced with greater inequities in education, wages, workforce sector opportunities, caregiving, and homeownership/affordable
housing.

Historically, women have worked in lower-wage sectors compared to men. The same is true in Rhode Island where two in five women work in health care, social assistance, or educational services—the Ocean State’s lowest-wage sectors. For example, the median wage for all Rhode Island workers is $19.45, but it is much lower for personal care aids ($12.10) and nursing assistants ($14.14). Nearly nine in ten (87%) of Rhode Island’s Healthcare support workers are women. Women of color account for nearly half (47%) of these workers.

Moreover, when you look at the lifetime wage for Rhode Island women based on race/ethnicity, white women lose $451,300 during their lifetime compared to White men, but Asian women ($607,100), Black women ($997,000), and Latina women ($1,231,700) women of color lose much more.

One policy solution we can work towards is raising the Rhode Island minimum wage to $15 an hour. Doing so would increase the wages of 96,700 women (64,300 who currently earn less than $15/hour and 32,400 who would see a modest wage increase as employers adjust their pay scales). By raising the wage to $15 an hour, we can send a message to Rhode Island and to our nation that we value our working women, especially our working women of color.

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