Every year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day highlights our perpetual game of catch up. It symbolizes the approximate number of days a Black woman must work into the new year to make what their White non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year.
Despite Black women serving as chief breadwinners in at least 70 percent of our households, Black women’s compensation continues to languish—according to American Community Survey (ACS) Census data, the 2019 wage gap for Black women and men is $.61; while White female counterparts earn nearly $0.80 to the dollar.
Dismantling racism and patriarchy needs to be a unified effort to ensure all Americans are paid based on their ability and industry, not their gender and skin color. Here’s how we can play a role in our own economic liberation and work to disrupt systems that guarantee our inequality.
Learn to negotiate with the “double bind” in mind. Women receive explicit and implicit messages that they are unfeminine and too pushy for trying to negotiate salaries. This leads many women to either avoid negotiating all together or to carry the stigma of being aggressive, ambitious, and manly which leads to backlash down the road.
Now imagine what Black women have to consider when adding prevalent race-based gender stereotypes that perceive Black women as less intelligent, but also fundamentally belligerent to this double bind phenomenon. Negotiating tactics where Black women candidly state, “I deserve this pay amount” won’t land as well as softer statements such as, “With this pay increase, I’ll be able to increase team productivity by 20%” that couch pay increases as wins for the organization or company rather than the self.
Kill the Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome stems from a chronic sense of self-doubt and sense of intellectual fraudulence despite evidence and track records of success. Women, including Black women, suffer from this syndrome and it’s costing us our bread and butter. This sense of inadequacy leads us to give others’ credit for our brilliance, shy away from higher profile projects, and accept initial offers at new jobs. Invest in therapy or even an assertiveness training class that helps you re-imagine your self-image.
Climb the ladder, but don’t kick it away once you reach the top. Don’t be one of those Black women that cries racial and gender equality when it benefits them but remains silent, or worse, actively impedes other Black women from making a steady climb to the top. When more of us are represented at the table, we can more easily advocate for our shared economic and social agendas.
Ask for corporate transparency. While it’s definitely proactive to speak openly about salary at the workplace with colleagues, it’s an approach that requires time to engender trust with no guarantee that co-workers will reveal their earnings. Besides, it’s your company’s core responsibility to be clear about its hiring practices, including how they issue salaries, bonuses, and other forms of compensation.
Speak loudly in numbers. If you have high social currency in your office, then leverage that power to rally coworkers and higher-ups to support pay increases at the individual, departmental, or sector level.
Make it social and start a movement. Share your journey on social media. When you share how you negotiated a salary win, overcame a challenge, called out salary inequality, or even posted research you conducted about median and average salaries by industry or state, you’re making it easier for other Black women to do the same.
Start your own. Sometimes you have to create what you seek. If you find that you’ve experienced enough income inequality based on your gender and race and you want out, create a thoughtful exit plan before you go so you return to the negotiating table as an employer, not an employee.
Equal work deserves equal pay. But we know it’s just not that simple. When we individually and collectively make noise and shine a spotlight on unfair salary practices, we create better working conditions not just for us, but for all.
Kara Stevens is founder of The Frugal Feminista, a personal finance site committed to helping black women heal their relationship with money, save for the fun and the future, destroy debt, and live life on their own terms.