Did you know Black women face a wider-than-average pay gap despite the fact that they participate in the workforce at a much higher rate than most other women? Crazy, isn’t it? According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women who work full-time, year round jobs earn only 61 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. This means the typical black woman has to work almost 20 months to get what the average white male is paid in the course of 12 months. My calculations tell me that’s 8 months of unpaid labor! Black Women Equal Pay Day was established to bring awareness to the pay inequity and discrimination in the workforce against women of color. Equal Pay Day is months before Black Women Equal Pay as it marks how far into the year the average woman will have to work to earn what the average man earned in the year prior.
Gender Wage Gap
The history of unequal pay goes back decades. Pay discrimination exists between genders and even those of a certain race and ethnicity. Why is there a gender wage gap? According to American Progress, some factors include, but are not limited to:
Occupation– Occupational segregation is funneling or limiting genders to different industries or jobs. What have been coined “women jobs” are jobs that are dominated by women such as health/home-care and child care jobs which tend to pay less than men dominated industries or “men jobs” such as construction and building.
Hours– Women work fewer hours than men to tend to priorities at home such as care giving and other unpaid activities/obligations. Therefore, women are less likely to work full-time jobs with higher wages compared to men.
Experience Level– As American Progress describes, women are driven out of the workforce due to catering to their unpaid obligations outside of work. Therefore, women tend to have less experience than women.
Flat Out Discrimination– Gender-based pay discrimination is illegal and has been since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed and passed by President Kennedy. However, the pay discrimination pattern continues especially to women of color.
The Equal Pay Act was an effort to correct the pay discrimination within male and female in the workforce. At the time, women made up a quarter of Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity established in 1996 as a public awareness event to demonstrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. On Equal Pay Day women businesses, labor groups, civil rights organizations, professional associations, etc. organize events to raise awareness about how to solve wage inequity. The National Committee on Pay Day has joined forces with the WAGE Project in 2006 where they encouraged members to start WAGE clubs which allows women to gather regularly to participate in discussion and strategize ways to close the wage gap. In 2008, The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) held a press conference on Capitol Hill in support of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Play Act. On Equal Pay Day in 2010 NCPE urged passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The NCPE continues efforts to get pay equity.
Black Women Equal Pay Day
Unequal pay between men and women is present in the workforce but let’s take a deeper look at race and gender. A typical white woman makes 79 cents for every dollar paid to the average white, non-Hispanic man. As mentioned earlier, Black women are paid just 62 cents of every dollar paid to the white, non-Hispanic man. Going deeper into the stats, The median annual pay for a Black Woman in the United States who holds a full time year-round job is $38,036, while the median annual pay for a white, non-Hispanic male who holds a full-time year-round job is $61,567, the difference is as high as $23,540 per year. Even within the race of women there is a wage gap. Well, why is this the case when 80% of Black women are the breadwinner of their household? The answer is simply occupational segregation. Black women are more likely to work at lower paying occupations such as the food or health care assistance. Black women are being over represented in these industries and underrepresented in higher paid industries making up just 1% of the high-paying engineering workforce and 3% of computing. Let’s create discussion on how to fix this!