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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: When Black Women’s Pay ‘Catches Up’

Topics: Data & Research
black women's equal pay day

The gender pay gap is worse for women of color. Black women who work full-time in the U.S. typically earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, according to The National Partnership for Women & Families. The same data show that median wages for black women in the U.S. are $36,203 year — over $20,000 less than that of white men.

Today, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, is the day when black women’s earnings catch up to white men’s pay from the previous year. That’s nearly four months after Equal Pay Day, the symbolic date when all women’s earnings catch up.

Due to this racial and gender pay gap, black women lose more than $800,000 in earnings over the course of their lifetime, per U.S. News & World Report.

U.S. News contributor Fatima Goss Graves writes:

And no matter how you slice the numbers, inequality persists. Among cashiers and retail salespeople, black women are paid 53 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Among janitors, cleaners, maids and housekeepers, it’s 64 cents. On the other side of the income spectrum, in highly paid occupations – jobs that typically pay about $100,000 annually or more – black women, again, make 64 cents on the dollar. In other words, this can’t be explained away by credentials or job choice.

Strategies to Close the Gap

“Pay inequity directly touches the lives of black women in at least three distinct ways,” write Valerie Wilson, Janelle Jones, Kayla Blado and Elise Gould at The Economic Policy Institute. “Since few black women are among the top 5 percent of earners in this country, they have experienced the relatively slow wage growth that characterizes growing class inequality along with the vast majority of other Americans. But in addition to this class inequality, they also experience lower pay due to gender and race bias.”

Sen. Kamala Harris has co-sponsored The Paycheck Fairness Act, which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to show that they pay fairly in terms of gender. (The legislation has yet to make it through the Senate.)

But, Sen. Harris says, that legislation is not enough.

At Bustle, she writes:

We need to prepare Black women and girls for good-paying jobs in growing fields. Right now, Black women are about seven percent of the population, but make up just two percent of scientists and engineers. We need to fix that. It’s time to address the underlying issues in our education system that push Black girls out of the classroom and limit their education opportunities even before they reach college. It’s time to pass laws that incentivize companies and schools to increase opportunities for technical training and mentoring in the STEM field.

“Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more,” writes Serena Williams at Fortune. “In short, it’s going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all.”

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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