Did you know that a black woman has to work for 565 days to make the same amount a man makes in 365 days?
That’s right. A black woman on average needs to work an extra eight months and seven days to equal the average pay a white man earned the year before. That is why #BlackWomensEqualPayDay is Tuesday, Aug. 7.
Despite the California Equal Pay Act, that means black California women earn 63 cents to the dollar even after controlling for education, years of experience, and location. The persistent gender-race wage gap (discriminatory pay and promotion practices) harms not only black women, but the economic well-being of their families and the economy, according to the Washington, DC-based National Partnership for Women & Families.
As the Golden Globe-winning actress Jessica Chastain (a white female) did in tying her salary for a forthcoming holiday comedy film with that of her co-star Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spencer (a black female); Jessica used her privilege to not only advocate but serve as an ally to ensure Octavia’s salary was equal, according to Fortune magazine and a number of other media outlets. It is important to bring awareness that black women simultaneously experience two marginalized identities, female and black, and face unique barriers and obstacles that are not well understood or acknowledged by others.
While women are becoming more visible at companies and institutions, black women, in particular, are not. For every black woman that rises through the ranks to a position of power, there are too many others who are still struggling. Without a specific focus on strategies to recruit, hire, promote and retain black women, progress will remain stalled. Internal changes must be made, such as provisions for more full-time jobs. It requires a lot of critical self-reflection, but this is necessary for an inclusive workplace. Diversity gets people in the door; inclusion keeps them there. It means incorporating their ideas, feedback, and valuing the voices of black women. The abundance of words and public relations buffer from companies and institutions has no value in the absence of action.
The data doesn’t lie — black women see more obstacles to racial equality and barriers in the workplace. According to a 2016 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, black women have become one of the most educated slices of the American population. Black women are paid less no matter how much education they have. That works out to $840,040 in lost wages by the end of their careers.
Locally, at two of Pasadena’s revered educational institutions, Fuller Seminary and Pasadena City College, it is important to highlight the invisible plight of black women. On Nov. 9, the PCC Courier published the article “PCC perpetuates erasure of black leadership,” which highlighted the erasure of black leadership (including black women), lack of promotional opportunities and overall decline in black student and employee representation at PCC.
At Fuller Seminary, during the June 2018 baccalaureate commencement, black women and many diverse allies stood up in powerful silent protest to the #BlackExodus of Fuller faculty, staff and students. Both Pasadena educational institutions have a strong employment legacy in the Southern California area, and it behooves them and other employers to implement change to recognize the current crisis. Employers must adequately address the “invisible” black woman. Change must be inclusive, come faster, be tangible, transparent for accountability, and involve immediate action. Unfair pay has prevailed for far too long with no consequence.
“Equal pay for equal work. It’s common sense. It’s also overdue. Let’s close the gap and let’s do it now,” Vice President Joe Biden said in 2015.
Men and women of all colors, races and creeds must join forces to realize this is an injustice. As we approach Aug. 7, talk about it freely, take dedicated action, ask your employers to recognize and address the unequal pay. It is important for everyone to bring awareness and action for equal pay for black women.
For more on equal pay, visit http://www.equalpaytoday.org/black-womens-equal-pay-day/ and http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/fair-pay/4-2017-ca-wage-gap.pdf.
Kelly Lewis is a resident of Altadena.