By Sophia Clarke, Communications Associate
Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. We are proud to celebrate with Black women across the country as we bring awareness to this day and work to further a world in which women — and Black women in particular — have access to pay equity in the workplace.
According to equalpaytoday.org, “Equal Pay Day for ALL Women should be on December 31, but it’s not. The average woman must work far into the next year to earn what the average man earns the previous year.” Further statistics from the New York Women’s Foundation show that “on average, Black women in the U.S. are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women.” Despite asking for raises and promotions at about the same rates as their white counterparts, their outcomes remain drastically lower, as does their ability to accumulate wealth and build intergenerational financial security.
So why does this happen? Why are Black women – who are statistically more likely to be the breadwinner sand sole providers for their families – consistently undervalued and under-compensated by their employers? History plays a rife role in understanding these discrepancies. According to the Center for American Progress, “Black women were always expected to work, too often in undervalued jobs with low wages.” Black women were forced to take on the roles of caretaker, parent, and employee simultaneously, and were often locked out of higher paying jobs. Jim Crow laws, stay-at-home traditions, barriers to higher education, and other systemic plagues forced Black women to do the most and expect the least in return.
Black women have never just been in the house. And have been working in jobs deemed “undesirable” and “low skill” for decades – and that’s in the years that we have been actually paid for our work, rather than enslaved peoples. In 2020 Black women are the most educated group in America, and yet we still remain one of the lowest paid. According to The Root, “between 2009 and 2010 Black women earned 68 percent of all associate degrees awarded to Black students, as well as 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees, and 65 percent of all doctorates awarded to Black students.” If anything, we’re educated. Just this week the first Black woman was selected to be on the Vice President ticket. In the house we are not.
But our pay equality doesn’t align. Across industries Black women are paid less. Even in Hollywood, where stars make much more than the average American. Take Viola Davis for example. A fierce actress with range and versatility and legacy. Viola has won acclaim for her presence on our screens and yet she is still being paid significantly less than her peers (such as Meryl Streep, who she is often compared to – no tea no shade to Meryl, but fair is fair). In 2018 Davis called out these discrepancies (though the video of her speech went viral in July 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement). In it she says:
I have a career that’s probably comparable to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore,
Sigourney Weaver…they all came out of Yale, the came out of Julliard, they
came out of NYU. They had the same path as me, and yet I am nowhere near
them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities, nowhere close to it.
Refinery29 notes that for comparison, “Last year Davis’ net worth was an estimated $12 million, a total that is devastatingly low in comparison to Streep’s $150 million.” Davis has won an Academy Award, an Emmy, and two Tonys. She’s the first Black actress to achieve such a feat and is a graduate of Julliard. She deserves better, Black women deserve better.
This Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, let’s not forget how long we have to go until we achieve justice and equity for our sisters across the country. For those that are cleaning up spills or cleaning up Oscars, and everyone in between, we deserve to be paid fairly for the work that we put in.
YWCA is proud to stand up for pay equality and support Black women as we seek financial freedom and stability. Through our investment in job training, financial literacy, and career guidance we know that this work makes a difference. Join us as we take a stand, make a change, and secure the bag. In sisterhood, we are #StrongerTogether.