Japanese Americans in conversation with AAPI Equal Pay Day

February 22nd, 2018 is AAPI Equal Pay Day. JACL sponsors this day this year as a reminder of how far America has come as a country, but how much work we still have to do. The wage gap represents many intersections of issues important to the Japanese American community namely the model minority myth, data disaggregation, and the bamboo ceiling.

Asian women’s median earnings are 85 cents per every dollar earned by white men.

As all women across America earn 80 cents to a man’s dollar, it is tempting to believe Asian American women are doing better than all other women in America in this regard. Furthermore it can be argued that Asian American men frequently have higher earnings to their white counterparts, however, this has its limits among East Asians and in achievement categories.

Asian Americans are frequently victim to the bamboo ceiling: White men are twice as likely as Asian men to hold leadership positions, and only 51% of Asian employees said they had led a meeting at work compared to 68% of white employees. The tech industry is well represented by Asian employees, yet Asians are rarely found in the upper ranks of management and even less frequently in the executive suites. Within job classifications, pay disparities persist when controlled for education and length of employment. This is demonstrated in the fact that Asian American women physicians and surgeons typically earn 57 cents to their white male counterparts.

However, on the other side of the spectrum we also see Asian women are overrepresented in the most poorly paid jobs. Asian women’s share of the low-wage workforce (3.9 percent) is nearly 1.4 times larger than their share of the overall workforce (2.8 percent).

Most importantly, the statistic of 85 cents per dollar does not fully capture the reality of Asian American women today. Southeast Asian women among the lowest earners to white male counterparts: Burmese and Fijian women earn only 44 cents per dollar, while Cambodian and Hmong women earn only 55 cents per dollar.

We highlight these incredible gaps to highlight the importance of data disaggregation, and awareness of the great diversity in people and issues in Asian America. Unfortunately, a small fraction of Asian America’s success is often used to create a rosier image of the state of Asian American civil rights. The Asian “model minority” myth erases other Asian American struggles.

We recognize AAPI Equal Pay Day for the vast wage gap that exists in particular for Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and all minority women.

Further reading:

AAUW AAPI Equal Pay Day Guide

NAPAWF AAPI Equal Pay Day Guide

NWLC AAPI Equal Pay Guide

Economic Policy Institute on Gender Wage Gap

Pew Research on Gender Wage Gap

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