By Julie Gomez
Nicolasa Sanchez recalls the moment she first noticed her husband was getting paid more than she was for doing the same job.
“I thought this wasn’t fair,” she said. “But I didn’t say anything because he’s my husband and back then I thought because he’s a man, he should be getting paid more.”
Yet, she couldn’t help but wonder why. Sanchez and her husband, Ernesto, who live in Midland, have been custodians for 22 years, working for a company they do not wish to disclose.
According to the Center for American Progress, women of all races and ethnicities working full time and year round in the U.S. earned on average only 78 percent of what men earned in 2013.
But women of color, like Sanchez, experience a greater wage loss than white women. The graph below shows the pay gap between women of color and white men.
Nicolasa Sanchez and her husband did nothing to resolve the disparity in their salaries. It resolved itself. Nicolasa Sanchez often worked overtime, which caused their earnings to even out. Sometimes, she worked so much that she would even get paid more than her husband.
Her example supports the view expressed by Tech’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, which states that women often must work longer to earn the same amount of pay.
Today, Ernesto Sanchez is retired, and Nicolasa Sanchez continues to work. She regrets her silence.
“Because it was coming into the same household, I didn’t say anything, but I look back and know that it wasn’t right,” Sanchez said. “I should have spoken up.”
The good news is that over the past 10 years, women’s wages in the workplace have increased, and their experience and skills have risen tremendously, according to a White House report titled “Gender Pay Gap: Recent Trends and Explanations.” Women are even the primary breadwinners in many contemporary households, the document states.
While the direct expression of the wage gap is that women tend to earn lower wages, the phenomenon indirectly reflects women’s different treatment in the workplace.
For example, even though members of the military are paid according to rank, women still face different treatment.
Mary Alice McGhee, who served in the Navy for eight years, is a case in point. In 2003, she was pregnant with her first daughter. As soon as McGhee announced her pregnancy, she began to notice she was being singled out.
According to McGhee, some military personnel believe pregnancy is a way for women to get out of doing their daily duties.
“When I was pregnant in the Navy, I remember thinking that I had to work harder because I was pregnant,” McGhee said. “A lot of times they looked at pregnant women as either lazy or trying to get away with something.”
Listen to McGhee talk about a time during her service when a higher-ranking officer told her something she will never forget:
McGhee is not alone. Ester Fry also served in the Navy for four years and was pregnant with her first child during this time.
She said officers do look at pregnant women as though they are damaged.
“Before my pregnancy I was a 4.0 sailor, but while I was pregnant, they evaluated me at a 2.5,” Fry said. “Even though I was doing everything I was doing before my pregnancy.”
Fry says the only way to solve this problem is to treat everyone equally, no matter what.