The annual Equal Pay Day for All is held in April, but when we look at the wage gap for women of color, the gap is far greater.
According to the National Organization for Women, when compared to all men, women earn $.80 (cents) on the $1. When compared to White, non-Hispanic men, Black/African American women earn only $.63 (cents) on the $1–meaning the typical Black woman must work until August 2018 to be paid what the typical White man was paid at the end of December 2017.
Why does such this big wage gap exist ? Several historical, sexist and racist implications are intwined into our nations wage gap. A variety of factors contribute to this issue: employment discrimination, gender and race-based bias, lack of pay transparency, an outdated minimum wage laws, unfair workplace practices, lack of affordable child care, lack of quality public education system, a dismantling of organized labor, and inequitable access to capital.
On this #BlackWomensEqualPayDay, in this critical year for our nation and at this pivotal moment for democracy, Black women nationwide are demanding more for their contributions, their dollar and their vote. We deserve tangible solutions from employers, from the business community, and from elected officials at the local, state and federal level for addressing each of the contributors to the gap. Luckily, Representative Rosa DeLauro sponsored a bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act to require employers to show that pay differences are not due to gender and prohibits employers from breaking the rules or retaliating against employees who seek to be paid equally. This bill represents a small stride in achieving gender equality in the workforce.
Perhaps what is even more disheartening is the fact that as of late many institutions, the Sloan Foundation, NSF, NIH, and a number of universities, have called for an increase in the number of minorities and women in professions where they are traditionally underrepresented. The question is, however, does increasing access to these professions ensure that we, as black women, will be seen as equals within said professions? This is not to discredit the work that institutions have put forth to diversify typically white and male dominated fields, but more often than not, STEM and highly quantitative disciplines are headlined by white men at all levels of advancement. For example, a white male is typically the editor of a journal that a black female professor would need to publish her article in to move up in academia.
Looking across economics specifically, the lack of black women, and perhaps black women pay, is abhorrent. The data shows that even as black women continue to persist through graduate school, obtaining the coveted three letters behind their name, their wages still fall short of their white male colleagues at the same level of education, occupation, age, and location. The wage gap is even worse for black mothers who make up over half the working force of black women and would benefit tremendously from equal wages.
As a young black women, pursuing a quantitative science at the highest level of education and looking to start families, what then should we make of these findings if it seems that my efforts (which on average exceed white women) are not been rewarded fairly? Thankfully, we have parents, friends, and mentors who are cheering me on along my academic journey. Others may not be so lucky and therefore, might see these numbers and conclude that it makes no real difference to negotiate salaries or even pursue higher education.
2018 has been a year full of political turmoil, but amist it all, it has been dubbed the Year of the Women. The new millennia can no longer tolerant the gender inequality that runs rampant in our society. This day forces us to highlight how black women in particular are viewed in the eyes of American employers and the American nation at large. Arguably, black women are the heart and soul of America. Black women such as Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer were the backbone of the civil rights movement and spearheaded the nation's fight for equality. The United States wouldn't have been able to get ahead in the space race without the brains of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson. Without the black women's vote, the democratic victory of Doug Jones' win in Alabama wouldn't have been possible. Despite all this, our efforts and work fail to be compensated. It's about time we are paid, recognized and valued for our contributions.