Even in 2021, after decades of combating gender-based discrimination on all fronts, women and femmes are still facing pay disparities in the workplace. In honor of Equal Pay Day on Wednesday, March 24, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney held a hearing to examine the effects of gender inequality in the United States, and one of America's most accomplished soccer players made some hard-hitting points during the event. Megan Rapinoe’s quotes about gender inequality and the wage gap are so powerful, and serve as a reminder that the struggle to end gender-based discrimination isn't over yet.
"There's no level of status and there's no accomplishment or power that will protect you from the clutches of inequality. One cannot simply 'outperform' inequality, or be 'excellent enough' to escape discrimination," Rapinoe testified to Congress, speaking about her own experiences with gender-based discrimination as a world-class athlete. She emphasized how, despite filling stadiums, breaking records, and winning multiple Olympic gold medals and World Cup championships, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is still paid less than their male counterparts. "We're so often told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve, you will be rewarded, and rewarded fairly. It's the promise of the American dream, but that promise has not been for everyone," Rapinoe added.
According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, women on average earn only 82 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Women of color are disproportionately impacted by gender-based discrimination, and face even larger wage disparities. On a national scale, for every dollar paid to white men, Black women are paid only 63 cents, and Latinas are paid only 55 cents. The disparities between members of the LGBTQ+ community are also egregious, as it wasn't until June 2020 that the Supreme Court ruled workers can't be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated gender inequities in the workplace. Since the onset of the pandemic in February 2020, women experienced 55% of the country's overall net job loss, per a January 2021 report from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). In real numbers, this translates to more than 5.4 million women across the country facing unemployment amid a devastating economic recession, during which more than 8 million Americans slipped into poverty.
"If [gender-based discrimination] can happen to us ... with the brightest lights shining on us at all times, it can and it does happen to every person who is marginalized by gender," Rapinoe said. As of March 24, members of Congress in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform are working to enact comprehensive legislation, like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Child Care for Working Families Act, to combat gendered inequities in the workplace on a federal level.
As the role of women and femmes in the United States continues to expand and evolve, many Americans believe in addressing gender inequality sooner rather than later, including Rapinoe. "We don't have to continue to be patient for decades on end. We can change that today," she told Congress. "We just have to want to."