Despite being original inhabitants and stewards of this land, Native American women have never been compensated for the full value of their labor in the U.S. workforce. Native American women are typically paid only 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This gap in pay typically amounts to a loss of $2,055 every month or $24,656 every year, and adds up to $986,240 over a 40-year career. This wage gap means that Native American women have to work 21 months – until October 1 – to make as much as white, non-Hispanic men were paid in the previous calendar year alone.
Native American women are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis; nearly three in ten Native American women (29 percent) work in a front-line job. As a result, they are disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. The pandemic has exposed how the work performed primarily by women has long been and continues to be undervalued, even as the rest of the country is depending on it as never before. Women are the majority of workers risking their lives to provide health care, child care, and other essential services, and Native American women are overrepresented in a variety of these occupations. They are also overrepresented in many of the occupations feeling the brunt of COVID-related job loss. Lost earnings due to the gender wage gap are exacerbating the effects of COVID-19 for Native American women — and for the families who depend on their income—leaving them without a financial cushion to weather this crisis.