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Editorial: Good progress has been made with the race wage gap in MN

Progress has been made, but there is still more that needs to happen.
Image by Sarah Mai

I am a student at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. In my Psychology of Women & Gender course, I have been given the opportunity to speak about an ongoing issue of racial wage gaps in Minnesota.

Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbid pay discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability. Chapter 363A of the 2023 Minnesota Statute addresses unfair discriminatory practices relating to employment. Discrimination is prohibited based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, sexual orientation and age. 

One of these prohibitions are against unfair practices by employers including public, private and nonprofit. This includes refusing to hire based on protected characteristics. We have many laws in place yet Minnesota is ranked no. 26 in the country for equality in the workforce, meaning that there are underlying issues that are contributing to this statistic.

Earnings Disparities by Race and Ethnicity data show that in Minnesota, White workers make up 83.33% of the workforce, earning the highest weekly average wage of $1061.05, with an earnings per dollar ratio of $1.00. Black workers represent 5.15% of the workforce, earning a weekly average of $755.94, with an earnings per dollar ratio of  $0.71. Asian-Pacific Islanders represent 4.14% of the workforce, earning a weekly wage of $994.54, with an earnings per dollar ratio of $0.94. Hispanic/Latino workers represent 5.02% of the workforce, earning a weekly wage of $740.78, with an earnings per dollar ratio of $0.70. Lastly, Native American/American Indians represent 1.09% of the workforce, earning the least with a weekly wage of $719.84, and with an earnings per dollar ratio of $0.68.

I believe it’s important to address implicit biases to fix this issue. Implicit biases refer to the unconscious thoughts, attitudes or stereotypes that affect certain decisions we make. These biases are formed throughout our lifetime through experiences, social interactions, and cultural influences and can heavily shape our interpretation of others without our conscious awareness. Biases can be towards certain ethnic or racial groups even if we consciously reject those stereotypes.

Discriminatory practices in recruitment and hiring processes still persist today due to them. Even though discrimination is prohibited by law, these unconscious biases still influence hiring, promotion, and pay decisions in the workforce. Implicit Biases in the workplace can have significant psychological effects on marginalized individuals. It can create feelings of inferiority, imposter syndrome, stress and anxiety. This can ultimately lead to a loss of motivation and engagement in the workplace.

As of Jan. 1, a new Minnesota law was put into effect in order to narrow the racial and gender pay gap. It encourages employers to rely on skills or qualifications to set pay for the job applicant and prohibits them from asking or considering an applicant’s past or current pay during the hiring process.

Although this is a great move in the right direction I still believe it’d be more beneficial to require employers to rely on skills or qualifications rather than just encouraging them, Furthermore, to further reduce implicit biases the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) should consider requiring employers to undergo implicit bias training where they’ll have the opportunity to cover fair evaluation techniques for hiring and recruitment. Requiring standardized interview questions can ensure consistency in evaluation and reduces the likelihood of bias when questioning the applicant.

These changes can guide Minnesota towards a better rank in terms of equality in the workplace. Ultimately, it’ll help many marginalized workers obtain fair pay and career advancement opportunities, leading to better economic security and social mobility.

Diana Ocampo-Valencia is a student at the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota studying Psychology, and Public Health.

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