Congresswoman Proposes Act to Close the Pay Gap for Native American Women

A Congresswoman from Kansas is urging the passage of a law that would close the pay gap for Native American women.

US Representative Sharice Davids, who represents Kansas’s 3rd congressional district, told CNBC that there are many ways to close the pay gap for Native American women and other women of color, but believes passing the Paycheck Fairness Act through the Senate would “be a big step towards addressing the gender pay gap.”

The bill was first introduced to Congress in 1997 by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). It ensures that everyone will receive equal pay no matter their gender. The House passed the act in March. Supporters are waiting for it to be passed by the Senate.

“Very simple concept: Men and women in the same job deserve the same pay,” DeLauro previously told Vox. “It used to be this was the fringe; it was a women’s issue, ‘Why do we have to deal with it?’”

Davids, who made history last year when she and Representative Deb Haaland became the first Native American women to be elected to Congress, told CNBC it is important to pass the bill so all men and women of every race can receive equal pay in the workplace.

“I think having a good policy in place with the intention towards making sure that it’s equal across the board regardless if you’re a white woman, a black woman, a Native American woman or a Latina woman is important,” Davids told the news station. “But we can’t get there without everybody recognizing that it’s a problem.”

“Having this historic class of women who are diverse in experience, and race and religion [in Congress] will help get us to a place where when we pass a Paycheck Fairness Act, it really acknowledges the disparities that still exists,” she continued.

A National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) fact sheet found that Native women who work full-time year-round “are paid only 58 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts,” which can lead to a lifetime loss of $977,720. The center also discovered that in some states, the wage gap for Native women is larger in certain states, with Native women in Delaware and California facing the largest wage gap.

The wage gap is still a problem for Native women at every educational level. Native women without a high school diploma make 62 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men without a diploma. Native women with a high school diploma typically receive 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men with the same degree, according to the NWLC.

Since she was elected, Davids has been implementing programs to help women succeed. On September 20, Davids introduced the Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act, which will help bring resources and opportunities for female entrepreneurs in Kansas. The bill would also help the Women’s Business Centers (WBC) program, which provides training services and counseling for women who run small businesses in the state.

“Women are the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs, but many unique challenges still exist for women, particularly women of color, to start and grow a business. By strengthening Women’s Business Centers, we can increase access to vital counseling and technical training services for female entrepreneurs so they can succeed right here in Kansas,” Davids said in a statement.

Democratic presidential candidates are also looking to close the wage gap. In July, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a plan as part of her presidential campaign to close the wage gap for women of color. In her plan, Warren proposed that if she is elected into office, she would set executive actions called the Equal Opportunity Executive Order to increase wages for women of color.

“For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of color equal opportunities,” Warren wrote. “It’s time for the government to try to right those wrongs — and boost our economy in the process.”

In her plan, Warren stated that one of her executive actions would deny federal contracts to companies that do not promote diversity or equal pay, ensuring that companies give a $15 wage with benefits to all of their employees.

“Companies with federal contracts employ roughly a quarter of the US workforce. By imposing new rules on companies that hope to receive federal contracts, we can take a big step towards creating equal opportunities for Black, Latina, Native American, Asian and other women of color,” Warren said.

“It’s time to build an America that recognizes the role that women of color play in their families and in the economy, that fairly values their work, and that delivers equal opportunity for everyone,” the 2020 presidential candidate continued.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.