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Rep. Alma Adams discusses wage equality for women of color, inflation, midterm elections

North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams (D) sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to address wage inequality for Black Women's Equal Pay Day — September 21 — while also talking about inflation, the impact of midterm elections, and immigration.

Video Transcript

- Well, one of the people who will be able to ask Jamie Dimon a question is Congresswoman Alma Adams, a North Carolina Democrat who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, and she joins us now. A pleasure to have you, Congresswoman. So, first, what are your expectations? What do you want to drill down on when you have these CEOs in front of you this week?

ALMA ADAMS: Well, I'm-- I'm very concerned about the process of equity and inclusion and how we're faring in terms of recruiting and making sure that folks who look like me and women, et cetera, have a space in those organizations, that we are looking at some of the pipeline at historically Black colleges and universities and making sure that that is, clearly, a great opportunity to address the issue of diversity and inclusion.

- The subject of inflation certainly should come up with those CEOs as Jamie Dimon, as we just mentioned, talked about storm clouds for the economy. It's interesting, though, in the wake of what the president said to "60 Minutes" about inflation when asked by Scott Pelley, he said it basically went up an inch. Now, the president was referencing, of course, the month-to-month movement, but are you concerned that the president sounded a bit out of touch regarding a 40-year high for inflation for Americans?

ALMA ADAMS: Well I think the president has kind of hit it right on the head, and so we-- you know, we're going to see what happens. We've had a number of things that happened that were really not necessarily in the president's control, but we'll have an opportunity to address all of those things on tomorrow.

- And, Congressman, we know that the economy is a very important issue here for voters heading into those midterm elections. There was a recent poll by "New York Times" and Siena, finding that 49% of respondents saying the economic issues were likely to determine their votes in November. I'm curious what you're hearing from your constituents, from those that you represent, just in terms of how optimistic they are about the direction of the US economy and how optimistic you are.

ALMA ADAMS: Well, I'm certainly looking up and forward. I think that we've had a number of changes in terms of-- yes, everybody's concerned about the economy, the cost of food, the cost of gasoline and so forth. We are seeing some changes there. So I do think that folks are going to look at it holistically as we go to the polls. They're concerned about health care and a number of other bread-and-butter issues. So I think they'll look at all of that.

- And as we look ahead to Black Women's Equal Pay Day and we look at some of the factors when-- as we're coming out of this recovery, as we're sort of seeing how people have done on the other side of the pandemic, whether it's things, factors like being a parent, whether it's you're pursuing a secondary degree, what are some of the factors that are still exacerbating the differences in pay?

ALMA ADAMS: Well first of all, I'm glad that we're talking about Black Women's Equal Pay Day. Of course, we have to recognize that Black women have to work almost 24 months to make the same amount of money for the same work that an average white male makes in just 12 months. So women, Black women in particular, are working full time, year round, paid only $0.58 for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, and so that's one of the many reasons that I'm continuing to lead the Black Women's Equal Pay Day resolution in the House of Representatives.

Because when you look at $0.58 on the dollar, it's low. Unfortunately, that means that we're heading in the wrong direction. And last year, it was $0.63 on the dollar, so it's dropping. So low wages rob women of an equal life, the ability to pay for education, for health insurance, for food, for housing, for all of the things that they need to survive for themselves and their families. And so-- my family lived this struggle. My mom cleaned houses. She pinched every penny so that I could be the first person to go to college.

And so I can relate to these things, and I can only imagine what women like my mom would have been able to do had they been paid a fair wage. So, you know, it's about, still, equity, making sure that for-- for the work that we do, that we're paid equally.

- Yeah. Congresswoman, do you have any sense of why that number is dropping? And how concerned are you that Republicans could take the house at the midterms, therefore leaving you with very little time to get this through?

ALMA ADAMS: Well, I'm not concerned that they're going to take the House. We're going to work hard to prevent that from happening. But, you know, we're going to have to continue to work on it. You're right. It's taken too long, and I think we're going to have to drill down on this.

Look at-- when you look at the makeup of the Congress, the Senate, as well as the House, but the house in particular, we have more women. We've got younger women coming in. We've got women of all backgrounds, ethnicities. And so if you're not paid equally, regardless of where you fall in terms of what your race, ethnicity and so forth is, that's a problem. So I feel real confident that we're going to keep the House and that we'll be able to get things done for the American people, and especially for women of color.

- Congresswoman, when we talk about closing that pay gap, I guess, more specifically, you're shining a light on the private sector. What should they do, what can they do in order to close that gap?

ALMA ADAMS: Well I just think we have to be very-- very direct and deliberate about respecting women for the work that they do, to make sure that we pay them for the work that they do, that they get promoted and that they serve in the C-suite and all of the other places where we see so many men, because I can't think of a thing or any particular profession where women have not excelled. And so we need to be paid for that.

But I think the private sector need to step up and make sure that we are paying women equally and that-- understanding that this wage gap is really creating a problem for so many women and their families. And so, you know, if you got good workers, if you pay them a fair wage, a good wage, then you're going to get-- you're going to get a good return in terms of the services that you're offering in your company.

- And as we ramp up to the midterm elections, obviously, a lot of issues coming to the forefront. Of course, most recently, Governor DeSantis with his immigration push, bussing, and flying in migrants from other countries to really sort of send this message. I wanted to get your take on that and what people should really take away from this in terms of what this means for the economy when you have an issue like this brought to light in this way.

ALMA ADAMS: Well, first of all, I think it's terrible what those governors are doing. I think it's inhumane. I do think we have to respect all people. And what has happened has-- I think, as far as I'm concerned, is clearly an embarrassment to our country, where we-- we're talking about people who are seeking a better life. They're not criminals and so forth.

So I think we can do better. We should do better, and hopefully we will look at people as human and would try to treat them and treat them the way that we want to be treated and the way we want our families to be treated. So we've got-- and we are in a situation here in our country where we have so many jobs that are available, and we have people who can perhaps come and do the work. And so, you know, I think we have to look realistically at what's going on and be humane and sensitive and compassionate in terms of how we treat our brothers and sisters.