It took eight months and seven days into 2018 for black women to catch up to what white men earned in 2017. That means it takes a little more than 19 months for black women to reach a year’s worth of the average white man’s salary.
To highlight that discrepancy, organizations including Equal Pay Today and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In are promoting Tuesday, Aug. 7, as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Black women are only paid 63 cents for every dollar white men earn. Black women, on average, are paid 38 percent less than than white men and 21 percent less than white women. Pay disparities remain consistent across different levels of education, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That’s a big difference, especially when 80 percent of black mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families.
“Equal pay is not about getting what’s fair, but about getting compensated for the value and expertise we bring to the workplace,” said Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO and founder of career guidance platform Landit. “When women are not fully compensated, there is the real risk of not getting what they deserve, but also not being able to ever close the gap. The loss is not only in terms of compensation, but also promotion, learning opportunities and the ability to bring the full measure of their talent and potential to the table.”
That gap has only narrowed by 9 cents over the last 30 years, compared to 22 cents for white women, Pew Research Center reported in 2016. On top of that, black women receive less support from managers and get promoted less frequently, according to Lean In’s 2017 Women In the Workplace study.
This is an urgent issue that is costing black women more than $800,000 ― and, in some states, $1 million ― over a lifetime.
A 2018 survey conducted by Lean In, Survey Monkey and the National Urban League found that 1 in 3 people aren’t aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and only roughly half of Americans are aware of the gap that exists between black women and white women. Even more alarming, the survey found that more than half of men believe that black women no longer face obstacles in their careers. Nearly 70 percent of non-black people believe racism and sexism are uncommon in the workplace while 64 percent of black women say they’ve been discriminated against at work.
In an effort to raise awareness and help close the gap, Lean In launched its #38PercentCounts campaign, partnering with Adidas, Lyft, Procter & Gamble and Reebok, to get their customers to consider how big of a difference 38 percent makes as they make purchases on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
“The pay gap facing Black women is an urgent problem,” Sandberg said in a statement. “It has huge financial implications for millions of families. And it signals something deeply wrong in our economy. We need to address the gender and racial inequalities that give rise to this imbalance — and create workplaces where everyone’s labor is valued, everyone is treated with respect, and everyone has an equal shot at success.”
The survey also found that people, including black women, generally underestimate the pay gap. In a video, Lean In revealed to a group of black women from various fields and their families just how much money they’re missing out on as a result of the pay gap.
Despite black women obtaining degrees at a consistently high rate for the last decade and being the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs among women, systemic oppression is still in the way of them getting paid what they are owed.
“Our plan is that bringing awareness to this injustice will lead to concrete action,” National Urban League president Marc H. Morial said in a statement. “Not only would fair pay for black women drastically narrow the racial economic gap, but it would go a long way toward stabilizing our national economy. Because Black women disproportionately are heads of households, fair pay would create a ripple effect that could lift entire communities.”