Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Highlights Wage Gap

Nearly 60 percent of Black women worked in either the service industry, sales or office jobs. (Stock Photo)

Black women working full-time, year-round typically make only 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) recognizes Monday, July 31 as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when Black women’s earnings “catch up” to white men’s earnings from the previous year.

AAUW, a leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls, is calling attention to the workplace challenges faced by Black women that contribute to the gender and racial wage gap. The percentage of Black women who are full-time minimum-wage workers is higher than that of any other racial group.

The Equal Pay Today! campaign and AAUW are hosting a “Twitter Storm” Monday from 2 to 3 p.m. ET. “Shout what equality at work means to you by using the hashtag #BlackWomensEqualPay,” according the hosts.

“Despite higher labor participation and voting rates, at all educational levels Black women are concentrated in lower paying jobs than most other groups of workers, and have poor outcomes in healthcare, criminal justice and life expectancy.”

The National Domestic Workers Alliance released a report in June, “The Status of Black Women in the United States.”

“Black women’s contributions to U.S. society and the economy have been undervalued and undercompensated,” the report states.

According to the findings, more than 6 in 10 (62.2 percent) of Black women are in the workforce and are the only group of women with a higher labor force participation rate than their male counterparts. Yet, between 2004 and 2014, Black women’s real median annual earnings declined by 5 percent.

In regard to entrepreneurship, the number of businesses owned by Black women increased by 178 percent between 2002 and 2012, the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups of women and men.

And, 8 out of 10 (80.6 percent) Black families depend on Black women’s earnings. The women are either the sole earner or earn at least 40 percent of household income.

Black women also pursue higher education at great rates. The share of Black women with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 23.9 percent between 2004 and 2014. Black women are the group of women with the second-largest improvement in attainment of higher education during the decade.

But the National Women’s Law Center states, “Pursing higher education does little to close the wage gap.”

For example:

  • Black women with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid $46,694 — just under what white, non-Hispanic men with only a high school degree are paid ($46,729).
  • Black women have to earn a master’s degree to make slightly more ($56,072) than white, non-Hispanic men with just an associate’s degree ($54,620).

According the AAUW, the pay gap threatens Black women’s “economic security and can hinder women’s ability to pay bills, including student loans.”

The organization’s new report, “Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans,” found that 57 percent of Black women who were repaying student loans reported that they had been unable to meet essential expenses within the past year.

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