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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2020: Acknowledging Inequity

It takes a Black woman in the United States roughly 20 months to make the same amount of money that a white, non-Hispanic man earns in one year.

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That’s why today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2020, as Aug. 13 marks the approximate date when Black women’s earnings since the start of 2019 will equal what white, Non-Hispanic men earned last year alone.

The U.S. Census Bureau offers more statistics that help explain why Black women continue to fall behind their male counterparts in terms of salary, and why Black Women’s Equal Pay Day continues to be marked each year.

For example, Black women make 62 cents on the dollar for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic male makes. In the 25 states with the largest number of Black women working full-time, year-round, Black women earn anywhere from 47 cents to 67 cents to every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts take home.

More disconcerting news: Experts say the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent recession are likely to make matters worse.  

“While it’s difficult to say with certainty what impact COVID is going to have on Black women’s earnings and wage disparities going forward, we certainly know it has interrupted the potential for Black women to increase or push for higher wages,” Michelle Holder, assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, City University of New York, recently told NBC News.

“In a period where joblessness is low, workers have more leverage,” said Holder, noting that forced closures have left service-producing industries such as health care, education, retail and food services among the hardest-hit by COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the leverage that workers had, including Black women, has now been stymied.”

Recent WorldatWork research provides a window into what organizations can do to ensure more equitable pay throughout the workforce. What most organizations actually are doing to get closer to pay equity, however, obviously isn’t quite enough, at least not yet.

Greater pay transparency, for instance, is designed to engender fairer pay practices. And 67% of the 478 companies taking part in WorldatWork’s January 2020 “Pay Transparency Study” view pay transparency as being increasingly important. But just 14% of these same respondents described their organization’s overall state of pay transparency with employees as “significant” or “extreme.”

This same study also finds that companies often share pay equity information with senior leaders, but not with the people leaders who make and influence pay decisions.

Charlene Wheeless, CEO of Charlene Wheeless Limited and a former C-suite executive at a handful of large corporations, offers a few tips for improving communication around pay, and ensuring greater pay equity in your organization.

Start with examining and eliminating the systemic biases that might be affecting pay decisions, she says.

“Are you looking at company policy and governance, and ensuring you don’t have systemic bias within your company policy? A lot of the time it’s your unspoken systems for success that can be detrimental. Are you creating another avenue that inadvertently makes it hard for everyone in your organization to succeed?”

What you shouldn’t be doing, she says, is hastily promoting Black female employees in order to fulfill a diversity quota.

“This also goes beyond making people step down from boards. Why make the pie smaller when it can be bigger? Open up more positions of leadership for Black employees by assessing their achievements.” 

These first steps toward achieving pay equity will lead to some difficult conversations for compensation leaders and others on the leadership team. And that’s OK, says Wheeless.

"This day is a great reminder for companies to take stock of their processes and practices for determining pay equity within the companies as well as equality across the board for women of color and especially Black women," she said. "Companies that espouse values of equality and fairness have a responsibility to do the right thing and make salary adjustments to ensure Black women are paid according to their skills and value in the market. This is also a reminder to Black women to know your value and negotiate from a place of strength. The time for Black women to simply be thankful that we've been given an opportunity is over."

About the Author

Mark McGraw Bio Image

Mark McGraw is a writer/editor at WorldatWork.


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