Breanna Reeves |
The month of August commemorates Black businesses and entrepreneurs, but this month also highlights the wage gap that Black women experience.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was recognized on August 3 as the “approximate day a Black woman must work into the new year to make what a White non-Hispanic man made at the end of the previous year,” according to Equal Pay Today.
Although Black women-owned businesses increased by 50 percent from 2014 to 2019, the American Community Survey or (ACS) Census data reports that the 2021 wage gap for Black women is $0.63 compared to every dollar earned by non-Hispanic White men.
According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), “This disparity has only closed by three cents over the last thirty years, which means, at this rate, Black women are not projected to reach equal pay until the year 2130.”
A report by the Women’s Institute for Policy Research revealed in 41 out of 42 states, “Black women’s median annual earnings were less than 70 percent of White men’s earnings.” The data showed that in California Black women’s annual median earnings were $46,941 compared to White men’s annual median earnings of $79,902, resulting in a $32,961 gap.
The pandemic overwhelmingly exposed the economic disparities among Black women who primarily worked on the frontlines.
“More than one in three Black women (36.8 percent) – the largest share of any group by race/ ethnicity and gender – worked in a front-line job before the pandemic started, compared to just 12.6 percent of white, non-Hispanic men,” the NWLC report noted.
Thirty-seven cents may not seem like much of a loss to a dollar, but over time, the loss of thirty-seven cents amounts to $24,110 each year, which Black women will continue to lose if the wage gap is not closed.
Closing the Wage Gap
Over the last few years, California has amended the California Equal Pay Act to establish equal pay for employees who perform “substantially similar work.” The law prohibits wage differences based on sex or race/ethnicity and asserts that an employer cannot prohibit workers from discussing their wages or the wages of others.
While California has amended the Equal Pay Act, the law can still permit unequal pay due to a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings based on quantity or quality of production or a “bona fide factor other than sex, race, or ethnicity.”
In order to improve the wage gap, one that disproportionately impacts women across all occupations, the American Bar Association recommends strengthening the current federal Equal Pay Act and enacting the Paycheck Fairness Act.
“The Paycheck Fairness Act would make critical changes to the law, including: prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages; (and) strengthening penalties for equal pay violations,” according to a post by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @_breereeves.