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Question #92419 posted on 07/07/2019 12:30 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Presidential candidate Kamala Harris recently declared that Latina women only get paid 53 cents for every dollar a white male makes. If this claim is true, why don't businesses fire all their white male employees and replace them with Hispanic women, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process?



Dear Sentinel,

It's far more complicated than that. 

When we say that women get paid X cents to the dollar a man makes, it doesn't mean that in every job a woman is being paid that much less for the same work. (Though in some cases, this is true. For example, the US Women's soccer team gets paid substantially less than the men's team, even though they're a much better team.) But there's more to it than that, because this is a systematic problem. It's more about how women are socialized into careers that pay less, education inequality (especially for people of color [POC]) making it hard for people to get qualified for jobs, and covert sexism and racism within institutions. Plus, fun fact, did you know that when more women begin to go into a given occupational field, the average salary for that occupation decreases? You can see this especially in the medical field, because only a certain number of doctors can be licensed at a time, so we can see how much the average goes down in comparison to how many women are doctors that year. It's insane, guys. 

Anyway, in general, the people (probably men) in charge will hire people that are similar to themselves (homogeny) and perpetuate the functional status quo of the business (institutional momentum). There will be a lot of resistance to changing the composition of a company. It will get a LOT of press, and all of the men who are being replaced are going to be pretty peeved as well. The negative response would probably cause such a negative economic downfall for the business that the money that they theoretically might be saving wouldn't compensate for it. There would probably even be lawsuits. 

However, there is a long and depressing history about POC workers being used as "strike-breakers." In the past, when unionized workers would go on strike to try to get better conditions, a company would go out and hire migrant or poor workers and pay them less than the old workers and keep them in bad conditions, and tell the striking workers to come back or they would give their jobs to the other people (obviously there was a lot more bad language than that.) This would often be enough for the strikers to fight to get their jobs back. It's pretty inhumane to use people like that. 

In other words, it just doesn't work that way. Institutional problems are rarely spotted at an individual level, so a business wouldn't get away with doing that, nor would it save them money in the long run.