Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, meaning August 7 marks the day that black women on average catch up to the yearly wage of white male’s average salary. On average, women make 80 cents to the male dollar, but black women only make 63 cents to the white male dollar.
This gap is no surprise and, sadly, it is growing every year. Which shouldn’t make sense because now more than ever, black women are excelling in their professional lives. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, black women are attaining more college degrees, leading political campaigns, and are the top demographic as the fastest growing entrepreneurs.
So why does the gap not only exist, but grow for black women? If they are becoming more educated, why are they earning less?
According to CNBC, this is due to the type of jobs black women have. Women of color make up 17 percent of the workforce, but make up 33 percent of minimum wage jobs such as retail, fast food, and healthcare aides. It also doesn’t help that higher waged jobs are not completely diverse.
“More companies prioritize gender diversity than racial diversity, perhaps hoping that focusing on gender alone will be sufficient to support all women,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, “But women of color face bias both for being women and for being people of color, and this double discrimination leads to a complex set of constraints and barriers.”
Luckily, there are policies being brought to the table to help close this gap. For starters, raising the minimum wage. According to a report from the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, the group that would benefit the most from a $15 minimum wage is black women.
Though the minimum wage is highly unlikely to increase at the federal level, many states are taking initiative and raising the state’s requirements. This past year, Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota all raised their minimum wages.
The Equal Pay Act, passed nearly 50 years ago, clearly has not done enough to close the gap. So, The Paycheck Fairness Act will help assure that the Department of Labor will use everything in their power to unmask the wage discrimination in this country. The act will require employers to be held accountable by assuring that wage differences are a result of work related issues only. It will also make sure that men and women who share their salaries with one another are not to face any retaliation by their employer, and will provide women and girls training in negotiating skills.