August 22, 2019, has been deemed Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. It’s a day that spotlights the inequities between what Black women earn in the workplace compared to their white male counterparts for doing the same jobs.
Today marks how long it takes Black women to make the same amount of money for the same job that white men made in just the 2018 calendar year.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women only make 61 cents for every dollar white men make for the same job in the same amount of time. That means over a 40-year career, Black women make almost a million dollars ($946,120) less than white men.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day hopes to spread awareness to pay inequity.
"As experts have noted, it is important to understand that this race-gender wage gap consists of more than simply adding the separate numbers associated with each gap,” Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote in a piece published on Thursday. “Rather, it reflects a unique effect that results from how the combination of race and gender are perceived together."
The present day race and gender wage gap stems from slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow era.
The legacy of those periods were characterized by the exploitation of Black women’s physical and reproductive labor. They shaped work opportunities and outcomes for women of color for decades.
For example, the practice of tipping, which today is a source of poverty among working women, emerged in resistance to Black workers moving into formal employment.
Other examples of systemic inequity are the 1935 Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
These New Deal programs transformed the vibrancy of the white labor market, but excluded all domestic and agricultural workers, a large majority of which were African-American, from unemployment benefits and a wide variety of protections like a 40-hour workweek and a national minimum wage.
The choice was deliberate to make these exclusions to get Southern members of Congress to support the New Deal.
In addition to earning less than men, Black women also face a large opportunity gap, often being passed up for well-deserved promotions or advancing to leadership positions at companies that pay more and have better benefits.
Here is a graphic illustrating the gender pay gap for different races and ethnicities in the United States.