For the first time, non-white people are being hired at rates higher than ever. While the job market has a ways to go to ensure that the workplace is equitable and accessible to all, women of color are finding jobs that work for them and their families. For many women of color several things have made it possible for them to return to work and continue to contribute to their lives.
Higher Wages Make Working More Realistic
Seven years ago in 2012, two hundred McDonald’s workers in New York City walked out of their jobs to fight the low minimum wages they were being paid. The protesting employees and their demands would soon be known to the public as a worker’s rights movement called the Fight for 15.
The workers wanted higher pay rate and a union. Citing the large pay gap between executives of the company and the workers, they demanded more money for literally keeping the company going. The movement has grown to include people across industries that are underpaid. Today, the Fight for 15 includes fast-food workers, home health aides, child-care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees – and underpaid workers everywhere. Despite the notion that people in these industries are teenage workers, studies have shown that 40 percent of the workforce in the fast food industry is 25 or older, and the average fast-food worker is 29 years old. Furthermore, 26 percent of fast food workers are parents with children.
States that have passed a $15 an hour minimum age have made the job market more attractive and possible for people, especially mothers. Presently, California, Massachusetts, and New York — plus the District of Columbia are the only states with a state minimum wage of $15 dollars an hour. Mónica Hernández lives in Maryland and spoke with the Washington Post about how the $15 an hour wage was more desirable than the $9 she was making before her family decided it was more cost effective for her to stay home.
More Education and Skills
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the rate of Black and Latinx college educated people has been increasing steadily for decades. The rate of college educated Black and Latinx people in 2018 was 89 percent and 72% respectively. With more formal college education women of color have been able to apply to jobs that require a college degree. Additionally, they have been able to tap into resources that places of higher education have to help with job placement, networking, and successful resume writing – all skills needed to land the job one wants.
For the Black and Latina women that have not attended college, free and at home job-training programs are another way to expand one’s skill set. Libraries, schools, and community centers that offer free or low cost job training programs help diversify the workforce. The ability to learn a new skill while at home caring for family makes it easier for people to expand their education while not having to outsource childcare, which is an added expense.
Additionally, job postings containing terms such as “fluent in Spanish,” “Spanish required” or “Spanish preferred” have nearly doubled since 2017, according to the job site Indeed. The demonstrated need for more bilingual speakers is also an indication that Spanish-speaking women of color are needed in the workforce.
Whether college educated or not, it is clear that the workforce is being driven and led by multi-skilled women of color.