How the pandemic is derailing the fight for equal pay

March 24, 2021, 12:49 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! CEO Jane Fraser sets some Zoom boundaries at Citigroup, Sen. Tammy Duckworth takes a stand for Asian-American representation, and today is Equal Pay Day. Have a good Wednesday.

– Pay up. Today is Equal Pay Day, the annual “holiday” when we consider the appalling fact that women, on average, had to work this far into the new year to earn what men did in a year earlier. But while the overall trend did not surprise—women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men—it is worth noting the aspects of the pay gap that have shifted over the past several months.

In this new Fortune op-ed, Lean In’s Rachel Thomas and former TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot dig into the ways in which the pay gap has been particularly hard on Black women and Latinas during the pandemic. Even before the impact of COVID, these groups experienced a larger gap than white women; Black women are paid just 63 cents, and Latinas only 55 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Now add in the ways in which the pandemic has disproportionately affected low-wage jobs (where Black women and Latinas are overrepresented) and the longstanding systemic flaws that have made it more difficult for these women to build wealth and advance in the workforce. The result is a crisis: half of Black women and Latinas now have less than $300 in savings (up from a third pre-pandemic). But all is not lost. Thomas and Brown-Philpot have some ideas about how to address this urgent moment—read more here.

Looking even further ahead, the economic impact now being felt by Black women, Latinas, and others in low-wage jobs could have a surprising impact on the wage gap next year: it could shrink. So, how does something we’d normally celebrate take such a dark turn? Simple: the gap will close if these women exit the workforce completely, leaving only higher-earning women in the salary pool, the NWLC’s Fatima Goss Graves tells Emma.

So while I hope we’re marking Equal Pay Day far earlier next year, we cannot allow that achievement to come at the expense of women who are pushed out of their jobs. Yes, reducing inequality in our society means closing the gap between men’s and women’s salaries, but just as important (if not more!) is addressing income inequality writ large. As Goss Graves says: “The wage gap becomes a wealth gap over time.”

Kristen Bellstrom

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Zoom-life balance. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser is making her mark on the bank with a new rule: no internal Zooms on Fridays. The banking chief—who has talked about her own decision to work part-time during a portion of her career when she had young kids—says the "Zoom-Free Friday" rule is an attempt to address the "not sustainable" blurring of work and home life. Fortune

- Fighting for representation. Sen. Tammy Duckworth took a stand yesterday, deciding she would vote against President Biden's nominees (except ones backed by the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific American caucuses), until the administration chooses more Asian-American nominees for remaining executive branch positions. None of Biden's cabinet picks are of Asian descent. (Trade rep Katherine Tai does occupy a cabinet-level role). She dropped the ultimatum late Tuesday after further negotiations on the issue with the Biden White House. Politico

- Boston first. With Marty Walsh confirmed as labor secretary, Kim Janey stepped in as Boston mayor, making her the first Black person and first woman to lead the city. Janey was Boston city council president and will serve out Walsh's term through a November election. CNN

- AUM milestone. Ellevest, the wealth management startup founded by Wall Street vet Sallie Krawcheck, says it has now reached $1 billion in assets under management. The company says it's the "first financial company built by women, specifically for women" to reach that milestone. Entrepreneur

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Stitch Fix hired former Amazon VP of community shopping Sharon Chiarella as chief product officer. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts added Dr. Ami Parekh, chief medical officer of Grand Rounds, to its board of directors. Susan Diamond, segment president for home solutions at insurer Humana, will serve as the company's interim CFO. Cindy Guerra Robbins, former Salesforce chief people officer, joined Silversmith Capital Partners as senior adviser. New Yorker senior editor Emily Stokes will be the next editor of The Paris Review. Stacey Epstein, the former chief marketing and customer experience officer for ServiceMax, joined Freshworks as CMO.


- Thin skin? In China, Intel ran an ad featuring comedian Yang Li. Known for making jokes about men, Yang said in the spot that Intel "has a taste for laptops that is higher than my taste for men." The segment prompted a backlash from male users, and Intel pulled the ad—which has now upset women, who question why the Fortune 500 company is "appeasing fragile male egos." South China Morning Post

- Investor investigation. A new investigation digs into allegations of sexual harassment and a racist work environment at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager. BlackRock says it will conduct an internal review of the claims. Institutional Investor

- Surfing tragedy. Katherine Diaz, a surfer in El Salvador, was training for this summer's Tokyo Olympics—the first time her sport would be part of the games—when she was struck by lightning. Diaz, who was her country's top surfer, died at 22. The Salvadoran Surf Federation mourned the athlete they called a "great warrior." Washington Post


Marvel's Black Widow will debut on Disney+ and in theaters at the same time CNN

Ellen DeGeneres loses 1 million viewers after apologizing for toxic workplace New York Times

All hail Amber Ruffin Vulture


"We used to joke on set that we were bringing sexy back to chess. We didn’t really think that that’s what people would actually think."

-Actor Anya Taylor-Joy on her starring role in Netflix's The Queen's Gambit

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