On Friday, September 15, 2023, gender and racial justice experts convened at the White House to address the critical issue of closing the wage and wealth gap for Black women. The meeting was a pivotal step toward discussing strategies to achieve gender and racial pay equity. The discussions were framed within the context of the 60th Anniversary of both the Equal Pay Act and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, underscoring the intersectionality of the challenges Black women face.
Recent Census data released earlier this week reveals that Black women working full time, year round, are paid 69 cents for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men. When part-time, part-year, and seasonal workers are included, Black women are paid 66 cents for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men. Black women also make less than both White women and Black men, underscoring the double-bind of both race and gender. This wage gap results in the average Black woman losing nearly $1 million over the course of a 40-year career—highlighting the urgent need for action.
The Administration opened the meeting with remarks welcoming and thanking advocates for calling the meeting, acknowledging the critical need to advance pay equity and support efforts to ensure the benefits of the infrastructure and jobs investments are equitably felt by everyone, including Black women.
Contributors to the wage gap were examined, including occupational segregation, lack of access to affordable childcare and paid leave, unfair workplace policies, employment discrimination, and lack of access to capital to start and grow small businesses. Advocates also emphasized the importance of continued efforts to combat employment discrimination – including undertaking robust enforcement strategies to address longstanding pay disparities – with a call to prioritize pushing to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
In addition, advocates proposed a comprehensive approach to focusing on boosting wages, enhancing job opportunities, and fortifying economic security for Black women and their families. This includes universal paid family and medical leave, increased access to affordable childcare, living wages, and ensuring Black women benefit from historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act.
Participants committed to continue meeting regularly and to bring leaders from national and state governments and the non-profit, corporate, and community sectors together for continued conversation working toward solutions.
The meeting concluded on an optimistic note, with a shared commitment to work collaboratively on strategies that would not only close the gender wage gap for Black women but also benefit all women and the families that rely on them.
In the spirit of inclusivity, the group asked that efforts be made to incorporate critical voices from various sectors in future discussions about related issues. The group was inspired by the dedication and passion demonstrated by all those present, and looked forward to following progress on gender and racial pay equality efforts from the Biden-Harris Administration.
- Shavon Arline-Bradley, President and CEO, National Council of Negro Women
- Melanie Campbell, President and CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Convenor, Black Women’s Roundtable
- Cherita Ellens, President and CEO, Women Employed
- Noreen Farrell, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates/Equal Pay Today
- Jocelyn Frye, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
- Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
- Margaret Mitchell, CEO, YWCA USA
- Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable
White House Attendees
- Jennifer Klein, Assistant to the President and Director of the Gender Policy Council
- Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President and Implementation Coordinator
- Neera Tanden, Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Advisor
- Catherine Beane, Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy, YWCA USA
- Gaylynn Burroughs, Director of Workplace Equality, National Women’s Law Center
- Joi Chaney, Senior Policy Advisor, Black Women’s Roundtable, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation & Founder, J.O.I. Strategies
- Melvina Ford, National Legal Director, Equal Rights Advocates
- Angelo Greco, Senior Communications Advisor, NCBCP
- Deborah J. Vagins, National Campaign Director & Director of Equal Pay Today, Equal Rights Advocates
- Azni Kyita Welchlin, Black Youth Vote Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable
- Robin Jackson, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator of MS Black Women’s Roundtable
- Portia White, Lead Strategist for Policy and Advocacy, National Council of Negro Women