What a time for Black women to be alive. We’re leading major corporations, holding the top seats in political office, running our own businesses at unprecedented rates and sprinkling Black Girl Magic everywhere we go. But despite our accomplishments on both large and small scales, one issue continues to persist. Pay for women, and Black women in particular, is a mere fraction of what our white, male counterparts receive. In 2019 that’s a huge problem. “In the next 365 days,I would like every employer to commit to close the pay gap between men and women,” Valerie Jarrett tells ESSENCE.It’s not a unique challenge, but for the former Obama aide, it is certainly a pressing one. As the co-chair of the United State of Women, a not for profit committed to promoting gender equity, she is dedicated to closing the opportunity gap between men and women, which includes the unique challenges of women and girls of color. “From education to employment, to sexual harassment, to health care, to incarceration, we often see disparities that hurt women and girls of color and I am determined to help address them,” Jarrett says.In helping to amplify women’s voices across the board, Jarrett has teamed up with ridesharing company Lyft to spotlight the amazing ladies throughout history who have made significant strides through their civic work. Now through the end of March, users of the app will receive $10 dollars towards any ride taking them to or from designated locations honoring these civic sheroes. The list was curated by Jarrett herself.
President Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Many know the 62-year-old author and businesswoman as a civil leader herself, and it appears that the inspiration for who she is today, comes from the varied women who came before her. “My 90-year-old mom is my role model and she continues to inspire me,” Jarrett gushes. “She has been a trailblazer in the field of early childhood education for over 50 years. She still works full time, lives independently, and hosts a weekly family dinner for at least 20 of our family members. She taught me the importance of hard work, resilience and integrity, and how to love unselfishly.” Another influence — the late, great Rosa Parks, who Jarrett says was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things. On February 27, 2013, the quiet activist accompanied then-boss Barack Obama to the historic dedication ceremony for the Rosa Parks statue in National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. Since then, it’s been on Jarrett’s list of favorite places that celebrate women.Especially during the month of March, the descendant of history makers (her great-grandfather Robert Robinson Taylor was the first accredited African American architect), believes it’s important to remember these trailblazers. “Our country’s history is rich because of its diversity,” Jarrett asserts. “For way too long Black women have been absent from our history books, yet we have made invaluable contributions to our history. Women’s History Month provides the opportunity to put the spotlight on those extraordinary contributions.”