Native Women and the Pay Gap

A Native American woman in a hoodie and black top. Photo courtesy of Obi Onyeador for Unsplash.
Photo by Obi Onyeador for Unsplash


According to U.S. Census Bureau Data, Native women were paid approximately 51% of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2021.

That statistic compares all Native women who took home earnings in 2021, including seasonal and part-time workers, to all white, non-Hispanic men workers. Previous pay gap calculations used data drawn only from full-time, year-round workers. However, AAUW and other equity organizations recently adopted a more inclusive methodology to better understand how the gender pay gap impacts diverse communities. During the pandemic, millions of women were forced out of the workforce due to layoffs and increased caregiving demands, with many women of color sustaining the greatest economic losses.

The relatively small size of the population of Native women is at least partially responsible for the lack of information. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, American Indians and Alaska Natives make up about 1.1% of the U.S. population, which is approximately 3.7 million men and women. An additional 5.9 million people identified as American Indian and Alaska Native and another race group. Together, the AI/AN alone or in combination population comprised 9.7

Government survey data contain less information about smaller groups. More research and data are needed in this area, especially with respect to factors that cause and perpetuate the pay gap. We do know that Native people face high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence as well as limited

access to education and health care, and Native women experience intersectional discrimination based on race and gender and other factors. Over the past decade, the earnings ratio between Native women and white men has stagnated, with no progress toward equal pay. There’s also a pay gap between Native men (who in turn have a pay gap compared with other men) and Native women.

The COVID-19 pandemic only amplified the inequalities Native women face. This is particularly true for those who live on reservations, where economic opportunities are often limited and rely heavily on casinos and public sector employment.

There is some good news. Native American women are going to college and holding jobs at higher rates than ever before. We know that education and good jobs help increase earnings—though they don’t eliminate the wage gap.

On Wednesday, November 30, 2022—this year’s Native Women’s Equal Pay Day—and every day, we invite you to join AAUW in advocating for real change. You can start by demanding more #EquityForNativeWomen and #NativeWomensEqualPay on social media. Join the Tweetstorm at 2 p.m. ET November 30.