Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. This means black women in America have to work all through the year of 2018 and until August 22nd 2019 to catch up with what men earned in 2018 alone. Regardless of their occupation and level of education or years of experience, Black women are still paid less than — not just men — but also, white women.
Shocking and troublesome, this is a reality that black women endure in the year 2019, 55 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Movement and 47 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was submitted by Congress. The time for change is now.
Understanding the Gender Pay Gap
To be a strong proponent of equity, it’s important to understand the methodology around gender pay gap studies. In April, PayScale hosted our 3rd annual Equal Pay Day event symbolizing how far into the year (white) women need to work to make what men did in the previous year. This date is calculated using the overall wage gap, or what we refer to as the Uncontrolled Gender Pay Gap, which takes the ratio of median earnings of all women to all men. What often gets lost in translation is what the uncontrolled wage gape truly represents – that women are less likely to hold high-level, high-paying jobs than men. There are structural barriers which keep women from advancing in the workplace – this is what we call the Opportunity Gap. The Controlled Gender pay gap, on the other hand, controls for factors such as job title, years of experience, industry and location so that the only differentiation between workers is their gender.
For black women, (according to PayScale’s State of The Gender Pay Gap 2019) the uncontrolled gender pay gap is 74 cents to every dollar a white man earns. Controlling for compensable factors such as job title, etc. the gap shifts to 97 cents to every dollar, an notable difference from white women, who see an uncontrolled gap of 79 cents and a controlled gap of 98 cents.
In recognition of this important day, we are reminded that women are not one homogenous group: women of color face a different set of barriers in getting fair pay and advancing in the workplace compared to white women.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Event
On August 15th, Lean In Seattle, Women’s Funding Alliance and Mercer co-hosted a Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Event at PayScale’s Seattle office. We were especially fortunate to have a keynote and five phenomenal speakers from the area to talk with us about the different variables contributing to the pay gap and offering broader perspectives of what generates the pay gap. It was an amazing event brimming with curiosity, passion, empathy and the compulsion to act.
The event began and ended with an opportunity to network, share experiences and invigorate authentic conversation.
KaKela (Kela) D. Hall, Sr. a.k.a KD Hall unified participants with her presentation around pay parity and how the wage gap affects all people, even men. She stated ‘The numbers aren’t moving.’ Researchers say it will take until 2120, for us to close the pay gap. Why? Until we create true allyship, we won’t be able to eradicate the wage gap. KD Hall delivered a powerful message.
The panel of speakers, moderated by PayScale’s Lydia Frank, opened the conversation on the opportunity gap, and introduced themselves, as well as their specific break-out discussion topics. Among the speakers were Amelia Ransom Sr. Director of Engagement and Diversity at Avalara, leading ‘How to battle the push back when Black Women negotiate or ask for a promotion.’ Amelia reminded attendees not to discount themselves or do others work for them and to move forward with integrity and purpose.
‘Planning your promotion on Day 1’ was led by Jodi-Ann Burey, Sr. Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at The Riveter, who encouraged attendees to start off every role with a strategy for professional growth. She suggested documentation, as well as career pathing to empower individuals to take ownership of their career. Understanding the landscape as well as the skills you bring will help you adopt the right strategy to set you up for success.
Rashinda Gaye, Founder of Women Rise, lead ‘Increase your self-worth, Increase your income.’ She talked about the ‘Money Mindset’, and how matters within or outside of the workplace can create negative self-talk, which can manifest into not getting what you deserve financially. Cultivating self-worth brings visibility to the value of your work. Attendees were reminded to stay vigilant about asking for promotions and raises.
Founder and change agent, Shellie Willis lead an intimate and valuable session on Allyship. She opened with questions like ‘Who is holding you accountable?’ and ‘Who is holding you back?’ An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole.
The final breakout session was on Power & Influence. Stasha Espinosa, King County Outreach Director, stated “relationships are the only currency that matters.”
Among the speaker’s discussion, one point seemed to resonate throughout the event. Creating opportunity for people to engage in real conversations with people who are like them and they trust is the single best way to close the wage gap. Finding safe spaces to have open, honest dialogue with likeminded individuals gives way to knowledge sharing and builds transparency around topics that would otherwise feel unavailable.
For those in dominant social groups (groups whose members are in the majority or who wield more power than other groups) alyship is fundamental. Without allyship from dominant groups change is stagnant.
Allyship Is Key
There are a variety of ways people can encourage these alliances. On a basic level, listening is key. Beyond just being present for someone to speak their truth. Allies should begin to recognize their privilege and adapt their thinking accordingly. Recognizing privilege is no exception. However, in understanding the systematic and societal issues which may have played in your favor, you are able to use this privilege to amplify those who do not have it.
At the top of the list of impactful acts of allyship, is sponsorship. In PayScale’s latest research report, Sponsors: Valuable Allies Not Everyone Has, we found that while having a sponsor pays a premium, the size of that boost depends on who your sponsor is. The data by race/ethnicity suggest that Hispanic and black women have the most to gain from sponsorships. However, women of color who have a person of the same race/ethnicity as their sponsor benefit far less than those who have someone who is white. Across the board, race/ethnicity tends to match between sponsors and their protégés, but protégés sponsored by white men have the highest sponsorship premiums. This highlights an important way that white male allies, can actively start to break down centuries of systemic bias in the workplace, by actively seeking to sponsor women and/or people of color in their organizations.
Regardless of your social class, color, or ability people can work together to cultivate pay parity for all. Participating in events which shed light on the various racial and gender wage gaps encourages inclusive environments, where all people can seek guidance in authentic conversation and community action.