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Leveling The Equal Pay Field: Why Black Women Need To Speak Up About Their Salary To Friends And Family

This wage gap is partly because we don’t negotiate as much as other groups, and companies have used secrecy to their advantage.

I stood there – frozen. As the news sank in, I felt a wave of emotions hit me at once. Confusion. Anger. Shame. Guilt. Embarrassment.

I was being paid $5,000 for a project while my white counterpart was being paid $30,000. And I was the one who set the price. Sadly a lesson I now carry with me today.

According to AAUW, Black women make 58 cents to every $1 white men make. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on September 21st and is the approximate day a Black woman must work into the new year to make the same salary a non-Hispanic white man earned at the end of the previous year. Long story short, this year Black women must work more than 264 days into 2022 to make the salary that non-Hispanic white men made in 2021. 

That’s crazy, right? This wage gap is partly because we generally don’t negotiate as much as other groups, and companies have used secrecy to their advantage to underpay women and minorities. Now is the time to start talking about money, and the sooner we negotiate and advocate for ourselves the quicker we can inch towards pay equity. Because if I had, I wouldn’t have been in the situation I found myself in. 

In fact, according to a study at George Mason University, failing to negotiate could cost you $600,000 throughout your career.

Speak with your friends about your salary.

Jordan Sale, founder of 81cents, which helps historically-excluded minorities negotiate their pay through data collection and hands-on mentorship shared that “not talking about your pay puts you at a disadvantage and closes you off from learning if your compensation is in line with the market — and hearing how others have approached negotiating in the past.” 

“Salary info alone doesn’t tell the full story,” Pamela Shand, CPRW says. “It doesn’t tell me if it’s competitive for her industry, years of experience, company ranges, etc. Discussing numbers isn’t as effective as discussing approach, strategy, and experiences.”

As someone with tech/corporate recruiting experience, I agree: there are many factors that can affect your market value, so understanding what your friends or peers have done to become a more competitive candidate or the strategies they took to negotiate for their pay could help you be more confident when advocating for yourself.

It is also key to diversify who you talk to about money. “Talk about pay with people who look different than you to avoid accidentally sourcing below-market data,” Jordan says. “So, make sure you’re getting diverse perspectives on whether or not your pay is fair and how to approach your negotiation!”

Speak with your family about salary.

Our relationship with money starts with our families at a young age, and having transparent discussions around money allows us to pass down generational knowledge around compensation and ultimately prepare future generations to advocate for themselves and their families.

In 2017, the Center for American Progress recorded that more than 84 percent of Black mothers were their families’ primary, sole, or co-breadwinners. We are typically overworked, underpaid, and not afforded the same ability to turn down opportunities with the support of a safety net or generational wealth as their white counterparts. 

I can shamelessly admit that I have taken many lower-paid roles because the bills have to get paid at the end of the day. This may ring true with other Black women who may take on a role even if it doesn’t align with their ideal goals simply to survive. Without the support or safety nets, they often “take what they get” rather than wait for better opportunities or negotiate for what would be appropriate.

When we are focused on survival instead of negotiation in fear of risking job security we subconsciously pass those fears onto our family. How many of us were taught that we have to work twice as hard to earn only half of what a white person gets?

But why should we work twice as hard for half as much? The correct answer: We shouldn’t.

How to start talking about money.

Here are a few actionable steps to begin talking about pay equity to prepare for your next negotiation.

  1. Start by networking with a few friends in your field that share similar years of experience. After building trust with them, engage in regular open dialogue around compensation and commit to putting each other on as you excel in your career!
  2. If you are looking for help ASAP, invest in a compensation analysis/market value report or in a negotiation coach who can help you identify and communicate the value you bring to an organization.
  3. Attend a Black Women’s Equal Pay Day event or find a salary negotiation workshop.