Women still only earn 77.9 cents on the dollar, but in the past few years, there’s been a much more concerted push to address the gender wage and opportunity gaps.
There’s still an elephant in the room, however, says Capitol Hill businesswoman Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno.
The pay and opportunity gap for women of color remains the obvious but unaddressed truth. On average, women of color experience a much higher wage deficit than white women.
“Women of color are on the bottom of the totem pole,” Quiamno says.
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Quiamno wants to do more than discuss it. She wants to change it. With business partner Aparna Rae, a consultant for businesses and nonprofits and diversity and inclusion advocate, she’s launching Future For Us, a new business venture aimed at closing the pay and opportunity gap for WOC through events, consulting and training for WOC and allies. Their dream: “A world where WOC are leading at the highest levels of every industry.”
“The wage exists in part due to unequal pay, and in larger part due to a lack of opportunities,” Rae said. “Women of color are 20% of the overall population, and yet hold more than 50% of all low-income jobs in the US (domestic and farm help, nursing assistants, etcetera), which means that their lifetime earnings are substantially lower. For example, Black women have $1 million less than white women by the end of their careers.”
Thursday was D-Day for Future For Us. The website went live with plans for an evening launch of the new venture with a private party at Pike/Pine’s Sole Repair Shop.
A day before the launch, Quiamno was swamped, but calm. She described how, while on her way to a meeting with Rae that morning, her phone buzzed with a Facebook memory. The women had met exactly a year ago, during a luncheon about pay equity. Not long after, they were invited to a panel on intersectional feminism during the Women’s March at the Capitol Hill co-working space The Riveter. “We talked about our experiences as women of color in Seattle and instantly bonded,” says Quiamno.
Quiamno moved from Hawaii to Seattle six years ago, settling on Capitol Hill and working mostly in marketing and PR. She later became a salary negotiation instructor for national organization Ladies Get Paid, traveling across the U.S. to teach women salary negotiation tactics, where she was faced with the lack of a specific strategy tailored to women of color. She felt similarly about her next job at Female Founders Alliance, a position she left to start Future For Us. Since then, Rae and Quiamno have raised $150,000, and say they hope to scale up quickly and organize events and conferences across the nation.
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@shopbontemps Time well spent being honored with the Boss Tactician Award from @kuow @BTSWpodcast hosted by the incredible @thejeannie & @eulalurene for my pay equity work with @ladiesgetpaid. I dedicated the award to every woman who believes in herself, believes in her worth & for every dollar she’s negotiated. Just a year ago I left a job that didn't believe in my worth & now my heart is full with pride to know that now there's more resources for women to advocate for a more equitable workplace. However, the work isn't done & I'm excited to continue to fight for equal pay & the advancement for women of color. I couldn't have done anything with my incredible community back home in Hawai'i & in Seattle. Thank you for the unwavering support & for believing in this island girl, especially to MaryBeth for nominating me! And lastly thank you to the generations of women, especially the women of color before me who’ve paved the way. 2019 here we come. Launching something pretty momentous next year. #Seattle save the date – Jan. 17th, 2019. More to come next month. 📆 | 📸: @karyaschanilec.photography #findingtimewellspent
For now, two big conferences — one of the four prongs of their revenue model which also includes brand sponsorship and consulting for companies — are planned for Seattle and Los Angeles this spring. Future For Us will also organize ticketed monthly events for women of color and allies (“we also want to bring men into these events and include them in the conversation”) focused on career development, management education, salary negotiation techniques and other practical tactics to train WOC managers and employees about promotions, salaries and working with HR.
“Nobody is really doing that here,” Quiamno says. “We’re all doing these events and drinking wine but are not giving women toolkits.”
To create an open network of information about salaries and job-related questions, Future For Us is launching a Slack channel for Women of Color plus a podcast and blog.
The first events, including a salary negotiation workshop, will be held this February and March, in the offices of Capitol Hill-based digital product studio Substantial and co-working space The Cloud Room. Many of the events will take place on the Hill because, Quiamno says, what she’s found here is a community of people and small businesses — many of which are womxn-owned— who “show up.”
“There’s a desire to be better and do better here.”
You can learn more about Future for Us at futureforus.co.