Washington D.C. (March 24, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing in honor of “Equal Pay Day” to examine the economic harm caused by longstanding gender inequalities, particularly for women of color.
“We’ve heard some sobering statistics today, from a truly impressive and diverse group of women,” Chairwoman Maloney said. “I applaud their hard work and continued fight for equality. Let’s not wait until the next crisis hits to act. Let’s get at the root of the problem now—for ourselves, for our mothers and daughters, for our sisters and neighbors—for those who are suffering much more than we can ever imagine. Let this be the last Equal Pay Day we ever have to commemorate—because hardworking people of all genders deserve to be fairly compensated for their work.”
The Committee heard testimony from Megan Rapinoe, U.S. World Cup Champion and Equal Pay Advocate; Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Dr. C. Nicole Mason, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research; Khara Jabola-Carolus, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women; and Republican Witness Patrice Onwuka, Director of the Center for Economic Opportunity at the Independent Women’s Forum.
Megan Rapinoe testified about her team’s efforts to secure equal pay and treatment at the highest levels of professional sports.
- Refuting the claim that unequal pay is a result of personal choice, Ms. Rapinoe testified, “What we’ve learned and what we continue to learn is that there is no level of status, accomplishments or power that will protect you from the clutches of inequity. One cannot simply outperform inequality, or be excellent enough to escape discrimination of any kind.”
- In response to a question from Chairwoman Maloney about why her team pursued their equal pay lawsuit, Ms. Rapinoe testified, “First of all it’s just the right thing to do.” She continued, “Yes we’re fighting for ourselves…but we’re with everyone. We’re with so many women across the country. We are with so many women who aren’t able to be in this Committee hearing, who aren’t able to get the ear of the media, who do not have the bright lights and the cameras on them all the time. We are looking to carry this torch for so many other women.”
- Ms. Rapinoe further testified, “We do our jobs and we do it in the best way that we possibly can … Simply, there’s no reason why we’re underpaid for the exception of gender.”
- Ms. Rapinoe responded to a question from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, saying, “with the lack of proper investment, we don’t really know the real potential of women’s sports. What we know is how successful women’s sports have been in the face of discrimination, in the face of gender disparity, in the face of a lack of a lack of investment on virtually every single level in comparison to men.”
Witnesses agreed gender inequality is deeply rooted in our nation’s history and women are disproportionately harmed by inequitable economic policies.
- Dr. C. Nicole Mason testified, in response to a question from Chairwoman Maloney, that when women enter the workforce “from the very beginning women are at a distinct disadvantage from negotiating equal pay for equal work; to lower wage workers not having benefits; or paid sick-leave…to the lack of affordable child care, which again, prohibits women from being able to enter the workforce and work at their full capacity.” She continued: “These things are historic and longstanding, and really impact a woman’s ability to thrive in her career, but also to be paid equally and fairly.”
- Dr. Mason also testified, in response to a question from Congressman Raskin, that, “in a market economy women are disadvantaged because of historic, racial and gender discrimination.”
Witnesses agreed that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these persistent inequities and that women of color have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact, as they have experienced its compounded harms on both women and on communities of color.
- Ms. Ai-jen Poo testified, in response to a question from Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, that “the truth is that our lack of supports for caregivers, for working moms, for family caregivers coming into the pandemic, was already incredibly tenuous, it was already unsustainable.” She continued: “What happened with the pandemic was that it essentially made it completely untenable for huge numbers of women, especially women of color. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back and now we are back at 1988 levels of women’s workforce participation. We’ve got to address this if we are going to recover from this pandemic.”
- Ms. Jabola-Carolus testified that “the amount of work—the grueling work that is shrouded as love is painful to experience because it is so demanding and requires so much sacrifice. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen this being put on women and because women already make lower wages, it’s logical for them to be the ones to take the hit and exit the workplace.”
Witnesses agreed that Congress must pass legislation, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Child Care for Working Families Act, and the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution— to propel America towards full inclusion and equity for all women.
- Dr. C. Nicole Mason said, in response to a question from Congresswoman Lawrence on the Paycheck Fairness Act and FAMILY Act, that “This bundle of policies that you mentioned, as well as the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights and universal childcare, are really important to our short term recovery but also to women’s long term economic security, well-being, and stability.” Dr. Mason added, “These systems have been broken for so long, so we have a once in a generation opportunity to create and build a more equitable economy that works for everyone.”
- Ms. Ai-jen Poo said, in response to a question from Congressman Davis, that “We need to look at how we boldly invest in childcare, in paid leave, in home and community services, including the ability to raise the wages for the care workforce so that we can sustain the workers who work in this economy.”
Chairwoman Maloney plans to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on August 3rd, Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day on September 8th, and Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day on October 21st.