While the COVID-19 pandemic and related dip in employment has impacted many diverse communities throughout the country, Black women have taken the hardest hit of all.
According to US News and World Report, as of Feb. 2020, right before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic, Black women had a 60.8% employment ratio to the population, but since then, that number has fallen by 6%, and it is now 54.8%.
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Over that same time, white women and white men experienced a fall of 2.9 percentage points and 3.8 percentage points, respectively. There are various reasons for this, including that Black women were largely in business sectors affected by the coronavirus, such as tourism, retail, and other personal services.
Plus, according to the website equalrights.org—an organization that fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools—Black women were over-represented in some low-paying jobs that were considered “essential,” during the pandemic and had been regarded as “low-skilled.” More often than not, these jobs offer low wages and few benefits including paid maternity leave. The site also reports that if trends remain the same, it will take Black women until 2133 to match the salaries of white men.
At BET.com, we recognize and appreciate the contributions of Black women and asked two experts Randi Bryant, chief diversity officer at Freshworks and Christie Lindor, workplace culture and inclusion expert and CEO at Tessi Consulting to give us their best tips on negotiating salaries because Black women shouldn’t have to wait more than a hundred years from now to achieve pay equity with white males.
Do Your Research
Even on an even playing field, in the same industries, with similar experience, Black women are still paid less than their white male and female counterparts. In fact, Black women are paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men and white, non-Hispanic women are paid just 79 cents for every dollar.
"A common misconception is that the pay gap is a myth, and many who believe this misinformation typically cite years of experience, child and family obligations, and industry to explain the pay gap," says Lindor. While those can be contributing factors, they don't tell the entire story. "It'd be a grave mistake to consider this "half information" to be the answer to the pay gap conversation," says Lindor.
"So do your research and talk to recruiters, consult sites such as Glassdoor, or even ask people socially that are in your field to find out what people in your area, with your qualifications and in your industry earn," says Bryant. You can also check Linkedin and Indeed to see if companies have posted similar jobs that include salary information.
"You should also review the company's website and their equity statements," says Bryant.
Cultivate professional networks
“Black women pursue promotions and raises at about the same rate as anyone else and usually are one of the most educated groups of employees, yet they are the least considered for advancement,” says Lindor.
This could be because Black women have fewer interactions and access to senior leadership and decision-makers, affecting their prospects for mentorships, networking, and general recognition. “Invest more time building professional relationships, both inside and outside of your company; cultivating professional networks to build trusted relationships can help you in your career,” she says.
Also, let the people within your circle of friends and family know that you are currently available for new opportunities also; if you do not have a LinkedIn profile build one. It has a feature to let recruiters know that you are ready for a new challenge.
There can be a lack of transparency around salaries, making it hard to know if you are being paid your worth.
“If you have trusted relationships with white men or women allies in a similar role, confidentially ask them about their salary at certain intervals such as starting pay, bonus, promotion pay, etc.,” says Lindor. While it may not be an uncomfortable conversation, it can equip you with the knowledge you need to negotiate for yourself. Furthermore, you do not want to wait until you are in your new position to find out that you could have been paid more.
Know your worth and advocate for yourself
If you have done your research, you should have an idea of what your skill sets are worth. “This is a bilateral situation that provides value to you and to the company, so own that,” says Bryant. While it is okay to be uncomfortable talking about money, it’s not okay to NOT talk about money,” she says. So do it even if you are uncomfortable and scared. Trust that you are worth it.
Start negotiations with a number in mind
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, some states have prohibited companies from asking about your salary history, which can benefit Black women. "Those questions tend to compound historic pay disparities, so ask for what you want, based on what is competitive compensation for the position, irrespective of what you have previously been earning," says Bryant.
You should also assume that the number you are being offered was given because the company expects you to want to negotiate. "Be comfortable asking for more and know that it is acceptable to decline an offer politely," says Bryant. "It's best to be interviewing with several companies so that you haven't put all of your eggs in one basket," she says.
You also want to look at the offer in its entirety before making a decision. Consider the length of commute, whether there is flexibility to work from home, and the benefits package. Salary negotiations are a part of getting the job you want, and you will be happy when you advocate for yourself.