Monday marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which shows how many days into 2017 a black woman needs to work to make as much as a white man did in 2016, assuming they both started Jan. 1, 2016.
The day comes nearly four months after Equal Pay Day, which marked how far women had to work into 2017 to earn the same as their male counterparts.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) July 31, 2017
Among those weighing in on the day's significance is acclaimed athlete Serena Williams, who wrote, "The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles."
As the Economic Policy Institute lays out,
Pay inequity directly touches the lives of black women in at least three distinct ways. Since few black women are among the top 5 percent of earners in this country, they have experienced the relatively slow wage growth that characterizes growing class inequality along with the vast majority of other Americans. But in addition to this class inequality, they also experience lower pay due to gender and race bias.
In the last 37 years, gender wage gaps have unquestionably narrowed—due in part to men’s wages decreasing—while racial wage gaps have gotten worse. Despite the large gender disadvantage faced by all women, black women were near parity with white women in 1979. However in 2016, white women’s wages grew to 76 percent of white men’s, compared to 67 percent for black women relative to white men—a racial difference of 9 percentage points. The trend is going the wrong way—progress is slowing for black women.
Kelli Garcia, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, articulates some of the harm of the pay gap:
The repercussions of unequal pay are long lasting and combine with other forms of ongoing discrimination and inequity to contribute to ongoing inequities that affect a woman's housing, education, health, and retirement. Unequal pay makes it harder for Black women to save the money necessary to provide a cushion for emergencies, for the down payment on a house or security deposit for a rental unit, and for higher education. It makes it harder to afford quality child care or to be able to take time off when you are sick or need to care for a loved one. It can mean the difference between going to the doctor or doing without health care.
By almost any measure, Black women are being left behind. The median wealth owned by single Black women is $200, compared to $10,150 for single men. Black women with a Bachelor’s degree have higher college debt–$29,000 on average compared to $20,907 for white men. At the same time Black women with a college degree are typically paid slightly less than white men with only a high school degree.
And it doesn't end there. Black women are also between three and four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Noise pollution is loudest in black neighborhoods. Schools that serve mostly Black students are more likely than schools that serve mostly white students to be located near a major roadway—exposing those students to dangerous levels of air pollution.
According to Williams, "Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more. In short, it's going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all."
Twitter users are marking the day—and the ongoing injustice—with the hashtag #BlackWomensEqualPay: #BlackWomensEqualPay Tweets