Many of us are aware of the wage gap between men and women — even after all these years, women are still making just $0.82 on average for every dollar that men make. Unfortunately, this is far from the only wage gap in the U.S. LGBTQ+ individuals also face a gap between themselves and their cisgender, heterosexual peers. And just like with other wage gaps, LGBTQ+ people of color face the largest gap.
You can likely make some educated guesses as to why this gap exists, but I’ll back up some of those guesses with facts and offer tips for LGBTQ+ people so they can get paid what they truly deserve.
What Does the LGBTQ+ Wage Gap Look Like?
The Human Rights Campaign conducted an LGBTQ+ Community Survey in 2021 to examine the LGBTQ+ pay gap. They had over 6,000 respondents who were able to tell them a great deal about the state of our workforce. They found that, on average, LGBTQ+ workers earn 90 cents for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ workers earn.
The study breaks down this gap further, unable to deny that race and ethnicity play a key role in how big this gap really gets. Here’s what they found:
- Asian/Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ workers earn the same as non-LGBTQ+ workers.
- White LGBTQ+ workers earn $0.97 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ workers earn.
- Latinx LGBTQ+ workers earn $0.90 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ workers earn.
- Black LGBTQ+ workers earn $0.80 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ workers earn.
- Native American LGBTQ+ workers earn $0.70 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ workers earn.
Race isn’t the only factor, of course. Gender identity also plays a huge role in how wide the pay gap is. Here’s how certain genders experience this gap:
- Men who identify as LGBTQ+ average $0.96 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ people earn.
- Women who identify as LGBTQ+ average $0.87 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ people earn.
- Non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and two-spirit workers average $0.70 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ people earn.
- Trans men average $0.70 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ people earn.
- Trans women average just $0.60 for every dollar non-LGBTQ+ people earn.
These pay gaps have put many LGBTQ+ workers well below the poverty line. Almost one in five LGBTQ+ people experience poverty, with Black and Latinx transgender adults more likely to live in poverty than trans people of any other race.
Why Does the LGBTQ+ Wage Gap Exist?
The LGBTQ+ wage gap exists for many of the same reasons that women, no matter their race or identity, experience a gap in pay: blatant discrimination.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law conducted a study in 2021 that examines how LGBTQ+ workers are treated in their workplaces. Almost half of those surveyed (46%) said they had experienced unfair treatment while at work during some point in their careers.
This intense discrimination has not just left LGBTQ+ people unemployed, but has caused those who do get jobs to earn less money — all while feeling unsafe in their working environments. If LGBTQ+ people can’t even trust that their employer respects their identity, it can be difficult to approach management about a disparity in pay, for fear they may lose their jobs.
A Lack of Research Within the LGBTQ+ Community
Until the Human Rights Campaign started conducting their surveys, there really wasn’t a whole lot of research ever done in regards to how much LGBTQ+ make. Therefore, it’s been hard up until now to even recognize that a wage gap exists.
How to Get Paid Fairly as an LGBTQ+ Worker
In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that expanded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) to include protections for individuals who experience discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a long way of saying that you have every legal right to report discrimination that you face from your employer or coworkers in regard to your orientation and gender identity.
Lower pay, overtime, and other compensation based solely on the way someone identifies is explicitly prohibited under this ruling. If you believe you’ve experienced this discrimination, you can file a case with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You’ll want to maintain a record of the discriminatory events or practices so you can show an attorney or agent when they contact you about your complaint.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to negotiate your pay, but everyone has a right to do so.
I know that’s far easier said than done.
And let’s get something straight right now: it won’t be easy. That’s why Harvard Business School professor of negotiation, Deepak Malhotra, helps students learn how to negotiate, even in the face of adversity.
Some basics of negotiation include:
- Stay polite — If you’re rude, you likely won’t get what you’re asking for. Stay courteous, but be direct. An employer will likely prefer that you get straight to the point.
- Prove why you deserve a higher salary — You can’t ask for a higher salary just because you want one. You need to be able to have concrete evidence as to why you deserve higher pay. Do you have extra experience that makes you especially valuable? Certain certificates or accolades?
- Consider all of the perks on the table — When you accept a job, you’re accepting more than just the base salary. You’re also accepting any health insurance and retirement benefits. Make sure this is included in your thinking about a potential salary increase.
- Be prepared for counter offers — This will be a negotiation, so you should expect some level of give and take. Go in with a bottom line and seriously consider if you’re willing to walk away if you can’t get to that bottom line.
Consider Working in Certain States
Do I think any LGBTQ+ person should have to move from a state or town they love in order to get paid fairly? Of course not. Can it help you potentially earn more if you do? Unfortunately, yes. Geography makes a big difference for the LGBTQ+ community.
Ranked amongst the lowest LGBTQ+ inclusive states is Alabama, with a very low LGBTQ+ population and some archaic laws still in place surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals and individuals who are HIV-positive.
On the other end of the spectrum are states like Vermont, Nevada, New York, and Oregon, which all have higher LGBTQ+ populations and non-discrimination laws in place.
How Allies Can Help Narrow the Wage Gap
The fight for equity in the workplace not only shouldn’t, but also can’t come just at the hands of LGBTQ+ people themselves. Allies of the LGBTQ+ community can take necessary steps to help their fellow workers earn what they truly deserve.
It’s not the responsibility of those within the community to provide education to allies, although many choose to. Educating yourself on the issues the LGBTQ+ community faces is the first step in understanding how you can help.
You can read a basic intro on some of the financial concerns faced by the LGBTQ+ community in our article: 7 Financial Concerns the LGBTQ+ Community Faces (and a Few Resources to Help).
Support Raising the Minimum Wage
One of the many benefits of raising the minimum wage is a more equal working wage. This means industries typically filled by underrepresented communities such as the food and hospitality industries, for example, will have to pay a living wage to all employees, regardless of their race, sexuality, gender identity, etc.
To help in the fight to increase the minimum wage, visit raisetheminimumwage.com. There, you can learn more about the grassroots movement that’s trying to get the federal minimum wage raised to $15.
Create Diverse Workplaces
The best thing allies who own their own companies can do is promote diversity and inclusion within their companies. The Human Rights Campaign has a couple of suggestions employers can follow to ensure their workplace is inclusive:
- Have a nondiscrimination policy that states employees will not be discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Institute your own fair pay policy where you have a liveable minimum wage.
- Only provide inclusive benefits packages that provide comfortable and inclusive health care policies for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Pay attention to what you’re paying people. Doing so annually can give you a sense of some unintentional biases you may have.
The LGBTQ+ community faces a wage gap, and unfortunately and unsurprisingly, those who experience the largest gap are people of color. The disparity comes from years of workplace discrimination and a lack of policies that protect LGBTQ+ individuals.
Know that this wage gap shouldn’t be normalized and that anyone who believes they’re facing discrimination due to their gender identity or sexuality can report it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Featured image: Popartic/Shutterstock.com