Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: Moving Toward Safety, Opportunity & Respect
By Nathalie Meus, Outreach & Policy Associate
Black women’s pay inequity is real to me. When I worked as a bartender during college, it was an open secret among my coworkers that customers from all walks of life consistently tipped me less than White male bartenders despite the rarity of complaints about my service. This phenomena was magnified when customers regularly made race-based assumptions about where I attended college and where I lived, and some even went so far as use their assumptions to substantiate that I was able to sustain less pay.
According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans want steps taken to end pay disparities between women and men. The impacts of racism make the gap wider, and the opportunities more far reaching for Black women. This year, April 2 marked Equal Pay Day. This date, which changes each year because it is pegged to what men were paid on average during the previous year, signifies the point when women begin to earn for the rest of the year what men will earn for the whole year. In short, this year women will be shorted at least three months of pay for the same work that men do.
However, there is a different Equal Pay Day for Black women – August 22, which reflects our country’s sordid history of oppression and marginalization on the basis of both gender and race. This year, Black women will be shorted nearly eight months of pay for the same work that men do, and – when compared to White women – will be shorted over four months of pay.
Each year, Black women lose, on average, $23,653 in wages. When scored out to what we need to support ourselves and our families, not to mention the severe limitations on savings and investment for our futures, we lose out on the value of:
- 5 years of child care
- Nearly 3 years’ worth of groceries
- For homeowners, over 15 months of mortgage and utility payments
- For renters, approximately 23 months of rent payments
- 17 months of contributions to employer-based insurance
- The value of the full payoff of the average student loan
These losses are dangerous for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and sexual harassment, and are especially dangerous for Black women who disproportionately experience gender-based violence:
- More than 4 in 10 Black women experience intimate partner violence during their lifetimes, at higher rates than women who are White, Latina, and Asian/Pacific Islander
- More than 20 percent of Black women are sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, a higher share than among women overall
- Black women are 8 times more likely to experience sexual harassment at work when compared to White women
Many survivors of domestic violence of all races literally cannot afford to leave abusive relationships, while survivors of workplace sexual violence and harassment often have make the impossible choice between safety and a paycheck. In fact, 73% (nearly 3 out of 4) of survivors recently surveyed said they stayed with an abusive partner longer than they wanted, or chose to return, for economic reasons. Black women’s pay inequity compounds these economic barriers, stymies the reaching of our full potential, limits our safety planning options, and makes us, our workplaces, and our communities less safe.
No one should go through what I experienced as a bartender. Please join me and my FUTURES colleagues in advocating for policies that end pay discrimination in the workplace, and supporting the rise of funding to Black women-led businesses and initiatives to address systemic barriers to advancement. All of us will prosper regardless of gender and race once Black women, and all women, attain the safety, opportunity, and respect that we deserve.