Ever since women entered the workforce, achieving pay equity has been an ongoing battle. According to "The Simple Truth About the Gender Wage Gap", a report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women working full time in the U.S. are paid 82% of what men earn, a gap that exists at all levels of work in almost every occupation. However, the gender pay gap doesn't affect all women equally, and it can be especially disadvantageous for women of color.
It takes Black women 19 months on average to earn the same income that white men earn in a year. In other words, Black women make just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men. That's why it's necessary to bring awareness to this issue through efforts like Black Women's Equal Pay Day.
What Is Black Women's Equal Pay Day?
Black Women's Equal Pay Day falls on the exact day when the average Black woman would achieve the same income that the average white, non-Hispanic man made at the end of the previous year. This year, that day falls on August 3, which means Black women must work eight extra months on average to make the same income as a white man.
Several factors contribute to this gap, but they don't affect all women in the same ways. Gender discrimination and workplace harassment can make it difficult for many women to advance their careers. Prior salary history and limited opportunities to take on leadership roles in previous jobs can affect a woman's earning potential, as can being penalized for temporarily leaving the workforce or changing work hours due to family or caregiving responsibilities.
Another issue is that women are often encouraged to pursue certain occupations that pay less than male-dominated fields due to a phenomenon called "occupational segregation." Occupations that are often pursued by women include teaching, nursing and caregiving, and service-oriented roles. Recent research indicates that women make up about two-thirds of workers in lower-wage jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened income disparities between men and women, as nearly three million women were pushed out of the workforce over the last year, largely due to caregiving and remote learning responsibilities and the fact that they made up a disproportionate share of workers in industries most impacted by the pandemic.
In addition to issues of gender discrimination, Black women also face their own unique challenges when it comes to pay equity, including issues related to racial discrimination. Nearly 80% of Black women are breadwinners for their families, whether they live in single or dual-income households, and that means that not paying Black women fairly can have a long-term impact on their families' ability to invest, pay for college, buy a home, and build generational wealth.
While Congress is weighing different legislation to address pay equity issues, there are several steps we all can take at the community, local and individual levels to help close the pay gap for Black women.
How to Achieve Pay Equity for Black Women
To help close the pay gap for Black women, consider being an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at work, increasing your engagement with an employee resource or affinity group that focuses on Black employees, or serving as a sponsor or mentor for a talented Black female colleague. You and your colleagues could also work to establish a talent recruitment or internship program that recruits candidates from historically Black colleges and universities.
Making a difference daily could be as simple as lifting the voices of Black female colleagues during meetings, speaking positively about their contributions to the company when you're around company leaders, or starting an informal lunch group where diverse female colleagues can talk about workplace wins and challenges or get advice about how to progress their careers. These efforts can elevate the visibility of Black women within your organization and increase their chances of being considered for new assignments and promotions.
You could also donate to an advocacy group or volunteer your time and expertise to organizations working to achieve pay equity for Black women. For example, organizations such as the American Association of University Women and The National Partnership for Women & Families focus on Black women's pay equity as part of their larger efforts, and many are often looking for guest speakers, mentors, or company leaders with whom to partner on talent pipeline programs. The National Council of Negro Women, which is the largest African-American women's organization, also has programs focused on economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, as does The Foundation for Business Equity, which provides support resources to help Black and Latinx businesses scale, and YW Boston, which creates more inclusive environments.
Being more engaged as an ally in your workplace and community can help you raise awareness of pay equity issues and support efforts to close the pay gap for Black women on a more local level. One of the most immediate ways we can affect change is within our own circles of influence, so starting small and uplifting the Black women around you may be the most meaningful way to ensure a future where Black women are paid fairly.
Join Us for Good to help support pay equity for Black women on Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which falls on August 3 this year.