By Sana Mamtaney

To make the same amount that white, non-Hispanic males were paid in 2021, Native women had to work until today, November 30, 2022. It takes 22 months, nearly two years, for a Native woman to earn what a white man makes in just a year. 

That’s why today is Native Women’s Equal Pay Day. 

The average Native woman in the United States who works full-time, year-round is typically paid 51 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. This figure is jarring. 

This wage gap comes to a loss of $2,400 every month, and $28,797 every year. If this gap stays consistent, a Native woman who enters the work force today will lose $1,151,880 over a 40-year career in comparison to a white man. 

Indigenous women don’t just lose money every hour they work, they lose money over a career, over a lifetime. Not only will this have major implications on their livelihoods, but it will also impact the lives of their families for generations to come, creating a cycle of systemic financial and racial oppression. 

According to census data, close to 27% of Native Americans live in poverty. The national poverty rate was only 12.8% in 2021. 

Indigenous people are predisposed to poverty because of the United States’ shameful history of mistreatment, genocide and erasure. They are also disparately impacted by poverty, alcoholism, sexual violence, and discrimination. 

Thirty-five percent of Native Americans report personally experiencing slurs and 39% report insensitive or offensive comments specifically about their race or ethnicity. Additionally, 38% of Native Americans say they or a family member have experienced violence because they are Native, according to a survey from National Public Radio. 

Today, as a country, we must take accountability and make changes. So, what can you do?

First, you can raise awareness! That means using your platforms like social media, activities and forums to bring light to the pay gap for Indigenous women. Most people don’t know just how drastic the gap is for Native women, since the most commonly known figure is that women on average make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. This doesn’t account for racial discrimination. The first step in causing action is making people aware of an injustice. 

You can also take a stand in your workplace for Indigenous women and other women of color who are not paid equally. They can’t fight this alone, and they need allies. 

One solution to the wage gap, in general, is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This is a constitutional amendment that states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” If it is published, it would deem the wage gap unconstitutional, including for Native women. Advocating for the ERA would bring us one step closer to equality for all. 

Lastly, you can support organizations who advocate for equality for Indigenous women. Advance Native Political Leadership campaigns for Native Americans seeking political office, who want to change the pay gap. The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women is working to break the cycle of racism and violence targeted against Native Women, which in turn will help address financial inequalities. 

Lest we forget our history, Indigenous women deserve equal rights – including equal pay. 

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