Black Women Need to Get Paid Too

Artwork by  Bee Harris  for  USOW

Artwork by Bee Harris for USOW

By Dr. Akilah Cadet

I love being a black woman. It is a gift. But when it comes to the workplace our gifts are not compensated fairly. Today is Black Women's Equal Pay Day. I know what you're thinking, we just celebrated Equal Pay Day. And you're right. But Equal Pay Day is for white women. Yes, white women. Black Women's Equal Pay Day, August 22, 2019 (this year) is the day black women must work into the new year to make what a white man made at the end of the previous year. Black women make on average 61 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families if the wage gap for full time black women was eliminated black women would have enough money for:

· 2.5 years of childcare;

· 2.6 additional years of college tuition (full costs for community college);

· 3 years of food for her family (more than 3 years’ worth);

· 15 additional months of mortgage and utilities payments or 23 more months of rent;

· 17 additional months of premiums for employer-based health insurance;

· 20 additional years of birth control;

· Enough money to pay off the average student loan debt in one year.

Sounds good right? Unfortunately, there are barriers to getting to the place where black women are getting paid in the workplace to have the above financial freedom. Let’s start with education. Black women are the most educated demographic in America, but with bachelor’s degrees in full time positions they make 37 percent less than white men with bachelor’s degrees. With 64% of the nation’s student debt, this means black women are taking much longer to pay off school debt, having less financial freedom.

Black women run thangs, but they don’t run companies. Eighty percent of black women are the breadwinners in their family. This would not be an issue if there were more black women leading companies with access to higher salary and perks. In fact, 0.5 percent of black women are in leadership positions in Silicon Valley and there are no CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Seventeen percent of the workforce is made up of black women and are 33 percent of low wage jobs like retail, health aides, and fast food restaurants.

So, what can you do?

Post about it! It is important that ALL women highlight different Equal Pay Days. Post something in your feed or stories. Get the word out there. And if you are a white woman, this is a wonderful way to be an ally for black women. And after that post, talk about your compensation! Being open about what you make allows women, black women, to know what they should be getting for the same or similar role. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Talk to the fellas! Get men on board. Educate them about what’s going on, not just for white women, but black women too. Encourage them to share what they are making too! Again, their black women peers or coworkers can easily take a pay discrepancy to HR and ask for more (good companies will learn from the pay inequity, keep that in mind). Also ask men to advocate for equal pay in the workplace, especially if they are in positions of leadership. Leaders (all leaders) can make a concerted effort to make sure black women who are offered positions or raises are offered the same salary if not more than white men.

Speaking of men…vote! Get out there and be vocal about who you want in office. More women in positions in government can make a difference (uh can we say AOC)! We need legislation to hold companies accountable for equal and fair pay for black women. Having women in office of any color is a step in the right direction.

Yes, equal pay is important for ALL women, but pretending like it is the same for black women and brown women is unfair to women of color who have more barriers to reach the same level as white men and women. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is an example of how unfair pay is in the workplace as white women make 77 cents on the dollar. Although gender aligns for equal pay for women, race/ethnicity is the reminder to continue to advocate and take action to make sure it is fair across the board. Remember, the only way to make change for equal pay is that ALL women receive it.

Dr. Akilah Cadet, Founder of Change Cadet, works with VCs, startups, small business, foundations, and nonprofits to assure diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies that support women, people of color, and the underserved in the workplace. As a Black woman, she uses her personal and professional experiences, as well as a touch of Beyoncé, to inspire her work through talks, coaching, strategy, facilitation, and organizational change. Hear more @changecadetpodcast or follow @changecadet.

Claire Wasserman