Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The date marks how far into 2018 a black woman needs to work, to make as much money as a white male made in 2017.
As a black woman who is the mother of two daughters, today will be a sad one for me.
I’m the proud parent of a first grader and a third grader who are full of potential, wonder and endless questions. Right now, I can’t bring myself to explain the magnitude of what this day represents to my girls. I already know I would struggle to answer their logical questions, which would start with, “Mommy, that just doesn’t make any sense. How can you earn less than someone else for doing the same job?”
It simply doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a brutal reality.
As a result, my mission is to do whatever I can to help black women accelerate their chosen careers and their earning capacity. I endeavor to do this through the career development and coaching work I undertake, supporting students, young professionals, academic institutions and employers.
But the road is long, and the slope is steep. As every working woman is aware, despite that fact we represent almost half of the workforce, we consistently earn considerably less than men in almost every occupation.
For black women, the gender pay gap is even more terrifying. Women who work full-time are typically paid about 78 cents for every dollar paid to men. In direct comparison, black women are paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
That means a black woman would have to work for 20 months in total, to make what a white man earns in just one year. Which brings us to where we are today, on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, if the wage gap was eliminated the immediate economic impact for black women would be life-changing.
Here’s some food for thought. On average, if the wage gap didn’t exist, a black woman working full-time, year-round, would have enough money for nearly three years of university tuition and fees at a four-year public university. Alternatively, she could purchase three years’ worth of food for her family. Or she could cover over a year of mortgage and utility payments.
So, why does the wage gap persist?
That’s also a tough one to answer. Black women are graduating from higher education institutions in greater and greater numbers year on year. However, after we enter the workforce the data suggests all the hard-earned momentum seems to grind to a halt.
According to a report released by the American Association of University Women, black women account for just 1.5 percent of senior-level executive positions in the private sector. Among the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, just 32 of the CEOs are female. Only three are black. Not one is a black woman.
This is a consistent pattern that is playing out across the board. Even with a MBA from Harvard, black women are failing to reach the most senior ranks in corporate America. According to research published earlier this year in Harvard Business Review only 13 percent of black female Harvard MBAs over the last 40 years have reached the senior-most executive ranks. That’s compared with 40 percent of non-African-American Harvard MBA degree holders who reach those top ranks.
So, what does the future hold?
It has been projected that it will take black women until the year 2124 to achieve pay equal to men’s. That’s 106 years away.
My sincerest hope, for my daughters and for the generations that follow, is for this bleak projection to be proven wrong. A century is too long to wait. It’s time for women of all races to stop being shortchanged and earn what we deserve.
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