Working for free for over eight months of the year is a long time. Unfortunately, Black women have been doing just that, but not by choice — working 20 months of full-time work for one year’s salary. And during the 8th month of the year — August — Black women are reclaiming their time to recognize just that. August 3rd is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day— a day that marks how much longer Black women must work to be paid what White men received the previous year.
During a time when the reckoning for Black equality — and equity — has finally seeped into the forefront, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is critical because it forces us to consider the unique social and economic experiences of Black women in America, separating us from our female counterparts who often experience more privilege not just in the workplace, but in society in general.
The disparities, though unsurprising, are staggering. The National Women’s Law Center found that among full-time, year-round workers, Black women are typically paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men—and this adds up to a loss of $2,009 each month, $24,110 annually, and a staggering $964,400 over the course of a 40-year career.
The wage gap Black women face is rooted not only in patriarchal attitudes toward women’s contributions, but historic injustices that denied social and economic uplift to African American communities, the effects of which still very much are carried on today. Assuming a Black woman and her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart both begin work at age 20, the wage gap means a Black woman would have to work until she is 83 years old to be paid what a white, non-Hispanic man has been paid by age 60. In other words, she would have to work nearly 8 years beyond her life expectancy, which recently was adjusted down by 2.3 years due to the Covid-19 crisis, in order to catch up to her white, non-Hispanic male peer’s lifetime earnings.
Not to mention, Black women face even larger pay disparity in certain states. The lifetime losses for Black women exceed $1 million in 11 states and Washington, D.C, with the nation’s capital having the steepest Black women’s wage gap in the country. Where Black women make only 49 cents for every dollar a white man makes—and 40-year career losses skyrocket to $2,125,920.
NWLC’s analysis of this month’s jobs report shows that Black women remain in the crosshairs of the pandemic-induced recession, facing high levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty. Since February 2020, 375,000 Black women have left the labor force and over one in 12 Black women ages 20 and over were unemployed in June.
Learn the myths and facts about Black women and equal pay and join ESSENCE in demanding more today.