This year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is August 7, the point into 2018 that black women must work on average to earn the same amount that white men earned in 2017 alone. That’s over 8 months of labor. Black women are paid 63 cents to every dollar that white men earn. When compared to white men, black women earn 38 percent less, and they earn 21 percent less than white women.
National Equal Pay Day this year was held on April 10 to mark the extra months necessary for all working women to earn the same as white men. Holding a separate Black Women’s Equal Pay Day serves to emphasize the even greater disparities between white men and black women. Black women experience both gender and racial discrimination, which combine to worsen the pay gap. Because 80 percent of black mothers are also the primary income providers for their families, the wage gap has a particularly devastating effect.
Lean In, Survey Monkey, and the National Urban League conducted a survey and found that 1 in 3 people are unaware of the pay gap between black women and white men and half of the population is unaware of the gap between white and black women.
Advocacy efforts regarding the pay gap for black women underscore the importance of an intersectional approach to ending pay disparities. Other racial and ethnic minorities also see a wider gender pay gap than the national average. Latinas make 54 cents to each dollar a white man makes, and Native American women make 57 cents. Even after accounting for differing careers and levels of education, race and gender-based wage gaps remain.
At the state level, laws currently in place regarding equal pay vary drastically. In April, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the nation’s strongest equal pay legislation to date. The law allows victims to seek repayment for up to six years of discrimination and, most significantly, requires equal pay for “substantially similar work” instead of just “equal work.” The provision permits employees to compare their work to that of similar employees with other titles or in other divisions.
On the federal level, the battle for gender pay equity has been waged for over 60 years now. The first Equal Pay Law was signed by President Kennedy in 1963, making it illegal to pay women less money for doing the same job as men. However, a Supreme Court ruling later limited the amount of time that a woman could file a wage discrimination suit against her employer to within 180 days of the first discriminatory pay check. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, allowing women to file suit for wage discrimination no matter how much time had passed since the discrimination first began.
But in 2014, Senate Republicans unanimously blocked a bill that would have made it illegal for employers to punish employees who discussed their wages. Likewise, the Trump Administration stopped a rule passed by the Obama administration that required large employers to provide data on their employee’s pay checks broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity.
For lasting change, raising the federal minimum wage, passing pay transparency legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act, strengthening laws that prohibit wage and employment discrimination, and expanding educational opportunities and affordable job-training programs will help to narrow the wage gap, particularly for black women.
Media Resources: HuffPost 8/7/18; Vox 8/7/18; Forbes 8/7/18; Equal Pay Today 8/7/18; Feminist Newswire 7/31/18; National Conference of State Legislatures 8/23/16; HuffPost 4/10/18; NBC News 8/31/17