Recognizing Asian American and Pacific Islander Women’s Equal Pay Day

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Equal Pay Day began in 1996 as an awareness campaign by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) to recognize the wage disparity women experience.Since then, there is wide recognition that, despite academic attainment, women of color face wider pay gaps than their white counterparts. Equal Pay Days are now dedicated to specific identities. This approach allows for a tailored evaluation of the systemic barriers to equality in compensation. 

Today, The Little Market honors Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Women’s Equal Pay Day with a commitment to recognizing nuanced experiences and needs within these communities. The average Asian American/Pacific Islander woman is paid $0.87 for every $1.00 paid to a white, non-Hispanic man.2 This disparity translates to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation over an AAIP woman’s career. In the United States, the typical career spans over 40 years. 

AAPI Equal Pay | Data Source - National Women’s Law Center via National Asian Pacific American Women’s ForumData Source: National Women’s Law Center via National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

At first glance, the average pay gap for AAPI women may not seem as steep. In order to accurately understand the disparities and contribute to the conversation in an informed way, we must always center the rich diversity within AAPI communities. Stereotypes and the “model minority” myth assume that all AAPI women have the same high level of educational attainment and opportunities. This overgeneralizing approach masks gaps in supportive services and viable professional pipelines. “Even within high earning fields, [AAPI] women are paid less than their male counterparts. The ‘model-minority’ rhetoric is racist, classist, divisive, and just plain wrong.”3

There are deep compensation disparities within AAPI communities with Vietnamese women earning $0.67, Hmong women earning $0.61, and Burmese women earning only $0.52 for every $1.00 paid white, non-Hispanic men. These figures constitute some of the lowest national wages.4 

Closing the pay gap for AAPI communities will require a coalition of private, public, and government organizations. However, the first step to creating change is to deconstruct the “model minority” myth to make visible the needs of specific AAPI communities. This will facilitate a robust conversation about poverty, economic, and academic attainment as well as wage disparities.

1“Workplace & Economic Equity, Equal Pay Day Calendar.” American Association of University Women.  Accessed Feb. 12, 2021. Web.
2“AAPI Equal Pay Day 2021.” The Equal Pay Today Campaign. EqualPayToday.org. Accessed Feb. 26, 2021. Web.
3Ibid.
4“AAPI Equal Pay Day.”  National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.  Accessed Feb. 12, 2021. Web.

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