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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

Yesterday marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which marks the point in the year where Black women would finally earn what White men earned in the previous year. The day is not a celebration, but a reminder of the progress that so desperately needs to be made for Black women to receive economic parity. 

A plate with the words pay me like a white man is in the background. A palo santo stick is burning. The time 11:11 is displayed and the mantra of the day states: pay me in equity

Capitalism teaches us to squeeze as much productivity out of a person as possible (and then some), while continuously cutting costs. The human impact is grave, and late-stage capitalism is here. We all suffer under the grind of capitalism –  and Black women in particular are uniquely harmed by it. 

While companies seek to constantly cut costs, those cuts often come at the expense of Black women, who are paid just 66 cents on the dollar to what White, non-Hispanic men earn annually. Findings from new research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggests that balancing the scales will be an incredibly long-term feat. “Based on trends during the last two decades, it will take over 200 years—until 2227—for Black women’s pay to equal White men’s for full-time year-round workers, and until 2362 to reach pay equity for all with earnings. These shocking projections point to the low job quality and poor advancement prospects faced by many Black women, who are more likely to be in the labor market and, when they are, less likely to work part-time than other women,” the report finds. 

So what does it mean for your company?

If you’re an organization that’s been committed to advancing DEI at your place of work in any way, concepts like transparency in pay scales and data, pay equity audits, and pay increases are already in your lexicon. While all are beneficial practices that can and should be implemented, what’s most important is how they are carried out. 

A black wiman in a wheelchair sits at a desk working on a computer, her hair is tied in a head wrap and she wears glasses. In the background a Black man is putting together a chair in front of a gray couch.

What values or beliefs is your company harboring around money and Black women, and how does it ultimately show up in their paychecks?

One of the greatest roadblocks to ending anti-Blackness in the workplace and making DEI transformative and not performative is uprooting the belief that equitable pay for Black women would somehow be inequitable to other people. 

It’s a fallacy that we’ve discussed in-depth on this blog before, and one that continues to stall meaningful progress. With the scales so imbalanced for Black women’s pay, it will take radical action to undo centuries worth of oppression. Looking at that action through the lens of what is in the best interest of Black women, and not what will keep White folks in power most comfortable, is what can shift equitable pay for Black women from theory to practice. 

What is the compounding impact of inequitable pay on Black women? 

When Black women are paid inequitably, it’s not just them who feel their burden; their children and families are also harmed. The thousands that Black women are shortchanged each year contribute to economic instability and make it more challenging or nearly impossible to save, invest, handle emergencies, and pay for experiences for their personal and professional enjoyment. 

Your individual company may not have invented the economic insecurity that Black women face, but by not paying Black women below their worth, it becomes complicit in a system designed for their oppression. Again, it’s radical action that is needed to shift to a working culture that prioritizes equitable pay for Black women. This action can look like creating annual opportunities for meaningful pay raises, reimbursements for utilities (for remote/hybrid employees), or stipends for wellness and professional development. 

While budgets and bottom lines remain a reality until capitalism is dismantled, they don’t have to be our primary motivation. Paying Black women equitably is a necessity to shift centuries worth of stolen labor and underpayment. Schedule a consultation with ShiftED Consulting today to create pathways for economic security and prosperity for the Black women on your team. 

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