Each morning, so many of us Black women, wake up at the crack of dawn, get dressed, down some coffee and head out into the world to grind another day. Our paychecks are more than means to buy fancy clothes and get our hair done — it is how we support not only ourselves, but our children, our parents and other loved ones.
What we make is our means of survival.
And it’s not easy to be a Black woman in the workforce given the racial and gender bias we face each day, especially when working in offices with mostly white leadership. Too many of us can attest to that burden of having to be twice as good, twice as smart and twice as agreeable than white folks in order to be noticed. And if we do speak up, we are constantly worried that we will be labeled as the “Angry Black woman.” Or if we are in leadership, we are constantly being undermined and presumed incompetent. It’s actually quite exhausting.
And yet for all of the hard work we put in everyday, to add insult to injury, we continue to get the short end of the stick when it comes to dollar signs.
According to a 2015 study conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), white women get paid less than white men, 78 cents to their dollar, but Black women make only a mere 64 cents to every dollar that a white man makes for the exact same job. (Even worse, Latinas make on average ten cents less than us compared to white men — a measly 54 cents.) Just think: In order to make as much as a white man makes in one year, a Black woman would have to work one full year and an extra six months and twenty-eight days.
This study also found that these gaps exist across all boards, male-dominated, female-dominated and even gender-neutral fields. So whether you are a scientist or a waiter or a teacher or an IT worker, if you are a Black woman, most likely you are going to get paid less than your white male counterpart.
What’s equally dreadful is that gaps not only occur when we have the same exact credentials, but when we have higher credentials. Black women with a bachelor's degree only make about $1.06 for every dollar a white man makes with just a high school diploma, Elle magazine recently pointed out.
Despite this being infuriating, it’s also incredibly scary given the real consequences this has in our lives, especially for single mothers. This wage war is further pushing us into poverty. Just think about how much more “wealth” Black women could have if we were paid fairly. Wealth that isn’t measured in affording a Gucci bag, but wealth that translates into basic necessities or paying our student loans or saving for our future (which shouldn’t be a rare luxury, but a common act).
There clearly needs to be more legislative work done and awareness raised around this issue in order to close these gaps. But we can't afford to sit back and wait for change to happen, we have to be our own agents of change.
First, we have to speak up and ask questions: How much did the person before me make in this same position? We also must do our research and compare what companies are paying for the same job we are applying for. When we are offered a salary, we have to do what white men do, provide a counter offer that is higher. We also have to fight for a higher minimum wage so that the sistas who don’t have office jobs can have a livable wage. Are you ready to join me?
Follow Kellee on Twitter @kelleent
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