‘It’s literally my stampede paying the bills’: Chicago woman says more needs to be done to level the playing field and payouts

CHICAGO (SCS) — It takes the average woman all of last year until today, March 15, two and a half months into the new year to earn as much as the average man did last year.

For women of color, it takes much longer. CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek explores how the pay gap affects women today and what is being done to level the playing field – or payment terms.

As chief organizer of the Little Village Community Council, Chella Garcia is well aware of the impact the wage gap has on women in her community.

“Being underpaid doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not employed and people will gladly take two, three jobs to close that pay gap.”

Garcia herself looks at the disparities.

“The job I’m in, a more established non-profit that’s not community based, I’ve seen someone make about $80,000 to $100,000 a year at my qualifications.”

Garcia has been a community organizer since she was 15 years old. His decades of experience are not reflected in his salary. If the paycheck arrives, not at all.

“I get paid by donation, by campaign, by consultation,” Garcia said. “I would say, on average, maybe around $12,000 a year.”

Garcia is not alone. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the pay gap is widest for Latina women, who earn 57 cents on the dollar of a white man.

“Over a 40-year career, that means $1.1 million in lost wages.”

Cherita Ellens is President and CEO of Women Employed, an advocacy organization working to close the economic gap for women and remove barriers to economic equity.

“The impact this has on your retirement savings, the choices you can make for your family, where you go to live, where you send your kids to school, it’s all tied to the pay gap,” Ellens said.

So what is being done to fix it? Ellens says that in recent years, two significant changes have been made to Illinois’ equal pay law.

The one that will soon force many companies to make their data on the gender, race and compensation of employees public. And the No Earnings History Act, which prohibits employers from asking a candidate how much they earned in previous jobs.

“It helps stop the bleeding. If I’ve been underpaid my entire career and now have the opportunity to go somewhere else, I don’t have to take it with me to my next job and I can start to even out my salary,” Ellens said.

Yet for Ellens and Garcia, progress can seem painfully slow. Garcia works multiple gigs, almost around the clock to make ends meet.

How does she stay afloat?

“It’s literally my hustle that pays the bills.”


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