August 23rd is African American Women’s Equal Pay Day. This date represents the approximate day that black women must work to in the current year to make the same amount of money men did in the previous year. In other words, the equal pay calculation means that a woman must have worked all of one year and eight months to be paid what men were paid in one year alone.
This underscores the fact that professional challenges still exist for African American Women today. These challenges include:
Race-based pay discrimination:
According to the National Committee for Pay Equity, Black women only earn 64 cents to a man’s dollar while women, in general, earn 78 cents. This persists even though black women have made significant gains in education.
Black women are clustered in lower-paying jobs:
According to a study by Georgetown University, blacks hold fewer degrees that can lead to jobs in higher paying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Instead, they tend to cluster in lower-paying fields like social work and earn about $40,000 in median income vs. $84.000 median income in a STEM field.
Lack of support policies at work for moms:
72% of all black children are born to single moms, which means that the black moms in the work force are more likely to be single moms. Therefore, it is even more imperative that there be robust maternity leave policies and other polices in place at work that allows for women to successfully navigate career and home. However, only 12% of U.S. workplaces in the private sector have paid family leave and only five states in the U.S. have programs in place that provide temporary disability for mothers who just gave birth.
Black women can still face problems with hostile work environments. In addition to potential overt hostility, they can also face challenges with different sets of expectations, sabotage, and discouragement. If this is coupled with encountering negative stereotypes such as the angry black woman and the “diversity hire” stereotype it makes for a challenging and stressful work environment.
Lack of Effective Networks:
According to the AAUW, “Research suggests that, although women and men are equally likely to have mentors…compared with white men, women and men of color have limited access to social networks that can provide information about jobs, promotions, professional advice, resources, and expertise…For women of color, networking requires more effort.”
Lower incomes for black women make it more challenging to get ahead financially, spend time with their children, and begin to make moves to build wealth. Although black women have made major educational gains, there is still work to be done that will allow those gains to translate higher wages, a positive environment, and careers that allow black women to care for families without sacrificing their income or career advancement.