|The fight for equal pay, gender parity heats up|
|Gender activists and other advocates battle to close the gap|
|Published Sunday, April 14, 2019|
Despite the United States touting itself as the bastion of freedom and equality, women in this country – despite comprising 50.8 percent of the population – have always found themselves in the position of having to fight for salary and wages comparable to men.
A range of studies show some progress, but stubborn racial and gender wage gaps persist in the U.S. Often, researchers point to disparities in education, the fact that many African American women and other women of color are clustered at the lower end of the pay scale, and that the minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2007 as factors contributing to the wage gap. But what’s often downplayed or ignored is the racism and sexism that’s also at play.
Black women sit at the nexus of race and gender, and are buffeted by the twin specters of these “isms,” and struggle upstream against a current of prejudice and bias which is compounded by gender and race.
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said that over their lifetimes, black women stand to lose between $800,000 and $1 million because of these disparities. “While the gender pay gap is an issue for all women, it is an especially wicked problem for black women,” said Jones-DeWeever, a women’s empowerment expert, international speaker and diversity consultant. “Black women are already economically disadvantaged and face double discrimination within the workforce. The additional burden of a 38 percent pay gap exacerbates the black wealth gap in America. It’s such an engrained problem.”
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), median wages for black women in the U.S. are $36,227 per year, compared to median wages of $57,925 annually for white, non-Hispanic men. In that same report, the NPWF also highlighted that if the wage gap were eliminated, a black woman working full time, year-round would have enough money for:
- Two-and-a-half years of child care
- Nearly 2.5 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university or the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college
- 159 more weeks of food for her family (three years’ worth)
- More than 14 additional months of mortgage and utilities payments
- 22 more months of rent.
The National Women’s Law Center reports that women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels – and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress. Studies by gender specialists, academics and women’s activists have statistics showing that the occupations black women have does not explain away their wage gap, the NWLC said.
- Black women working as physicians and surgeons — a traditionally male, high-wage occupation — make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working in the same field.
- Black women working as customer service representatives — a mid-wage, female-dominated occupation — make 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the same field.
- Black women working as construction laborers — a traditionally male, mid-wage occupation — make 81 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
- Black women working as personal care aides — a heavily female, low wage occupation —make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
In addition, black women experience a wage gap even in occupations where they are over-represented. More than 2 in 5 African American women (44.8 percent) are employed in one of 10 occupations. In every one of those occupations, they are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men.
Some solutions, NWLC experts say, include strengthening America’s pay discrimination laws, pushing harder to get Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Family Act and the Schedules That Work Act – all of which would address the discrimination women face when they’re pregnant or caregiving, and support those who need paid leave, predictable work schedules, and stability for themselves and their families.
Dalana A. Brand, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Electronic Arts, Inc., contends that black women can’t afford to wait, arguing in an opinion piece last year for Blavity, an internet media company, that in the midst of the flurry of publicity, tweets, posts, hashtags and calls for change, one important element is missing.
“What often gets left out of that discussion is that the hallmark day in April does not apply to black women and other women of color,” she said. “… So, while white women caught up on April 10, black women must wait for over half the year to pass before our wages catch up to what men made a year ago.”
Brand, a highly-sought after salary strategist and career transformation coach, said black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women but “the sad fact is that most people are either unaware or don’t care about the appalling disparity black women face with respect pay equity.”
Much like the feminist movement, black women are being largely ignored by the equal pay movement,” she added.
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