For all of the important conversations had about equal pay — most dominantly, the fact that white women only make 79 cents for every buck paid to the average white man — we still don't talk enough about how race and ethnicity play into wage inequality for women in this country.
Today, Native American women in the U.S. only make, on average, 57 cents for every dollar a white American man makes, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This means Native women have to work roughly nine months longer than a white man to make the same amount of money. And, according to The National Women's Law Center, the gap is particularly bad in some states, such as California where the gap between Native American women's and non-Hispanic men's yearly wages add up to $34,833, or a whopping $1,395,320 over a a lifetime.
In recent years, the conversation about gender equality has expanded to include a more nuanced consideration of how race and ethnicity play into women's experiences. Centuries of colonization and subjugation on this continent have greatly affected Indigenous communities, particularly women. On top of that, high levels of unemployment, high rates of violence against women — four out of five Native American women experience violence in their lives — disproportionately disproportionate levels of missing women and girls, and high poverty levels make the struggles for Indigenous American women particularly pronounced. Further, because of higher levels of addiction — stemming back to the collective traumas of colonization — and subpar access to education, many young Native Americans are being left behind.
However, despite the at-times grim status quo, there is some good news: In recent years, Native American women have begun going to college and holding jobs at higher rates, something that undoubtedly will have a significant impact on these women's futures. Though the pay gap is stubborn (and racial and gender discrimination are real), the progress in Native communities is palpable. More Indigenous women than ever have college degrees, are obtaining higher paying jobs, and are pushing back against discrimination than before. On top of that, Native women entrepreneurship is growing rapidly and becoming a powerful player in the entrepreneurial community.
Ultimately, given all of this progress, it's certain that these transformations will positively impact future generations of Native women and girls. But we must keep the conversation going, and continue investing in Native American communities by supporting Native Americans running for office, buying from Native American businesses, and generally being a better ally to Native Americans.