A persistent gender-based wage gap continues to harm women, their families and the economy – but too few people know how large the pay gap is for Black women.

You may have heard about Equal Pay Day, recognized on April 10 this year, as the day that symbolized how far women had to work into 2018 just to catch up with what men earned in 2017. However, what most people don’t know is that that date does not take into account the disparities that disproportionately affect Black women.

For Black women, Equal Pay Day is today, August 7th. That’s more than seven extra months into the year that Black women have to work in order to earn what their White male counterparts earned last year alone. On average, Black women are paid 38% less than White men and 21% less than White women.

To put it another way, Black women in the United States who work full time year-round are typically paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men. Overall, women employed full time, year-round are typically paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men

“Black women deal with double discrimination every day — they face biases for being women and biases for being people of color. One place where we see that double effect is in the 38% pay gap,” said Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org, a non-profit designed to empower women to achieve their ambitions.

How Does the Gap Harm Black Women?

Median wages for Black women in the United States are $36,227 per year, compared to median wages of $57,925 annually for White, non-Hispanic men. This amounts to a difference of $21,698 each year. If Black women were paid fairly, they would earn on average almost $870,000 more over the course of their career.

Lower earnings for them means less money for their families, especially since more than 80% of Black mothers are primary breadwinners for their households. More than four million family households in the United States are headed by Black women.

When asked what 38% more would mean in their lives, one woman says she could retire comfortably, another says it would go toward her son’s education, and a family explains they could use the lost income to buy a house—or “two houses, actually,” says their son.

“Not only would fair pay for Black women drastically narrow the racial economic gap, but it would go a long way toward stabilizing our national economy. Because Black women disproportionately are heads of households, fair pay would create a ripple effect that could lift entire communities,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

Lack of Knowledge About Gap

The Urban League along with Leanin.org and several corporate partners were behind new research that shows there remains a striking lack of awareness around the pay gap.

One in three Americans is not aware of the pay gap between Black women and White men, and half of Americans are not aware of the gap between Black women and White women.

Even when people know there’s a pay gap, it’s bigger than they realize, with 40% of people who are aware of this gap underestimating its size.

“Our plan is that bringing awareness to this injustice will lead to concrete action,” said Morial.

To raise awareness of the pay gap and its negative effect on Black women and families, LeanIn.Org launched #38PercentCounts, the second of three public awareness efforts this year rooted in the idea that equal pay matters. On Latina Equal Pay Day on November 1, LeanIn.Org and their campaign partners will do the same to highlight the 46 percent pay gap Latinas face.

Moreover, the data show significant differences in how Black women see the workplace compared to everyone else. About half of White men think obstacles to advancement for Black women are gone but only 14% of Black women agree. Moreover, nearly 70% of people who are not Black think that racism, sexism or both are uncommon in their company — yet 64% of Black women say they’ve experienced discrimination at work.

“The lack of awareness about the pay gap at their own workplace, particularly among hiring managers – two-thirds of whom say there is none – is an insight we hope drives organizations to take action,” said Sarah Cho, director of research at SurveyMonkey. “Conducting a pay equity study is a powerful way to bring this topic into clear terms, but we also hope these data spark curiosity within companies to measure perceptions about inclusion, so they can build broader programs and policies to help drive meaningful change that lasts.”

More Than Just Pay

For Black women, being paid less is just the tip of the iceberg. Compared to White women, Asian women and Latinas, Black women receive less support from managers and are promoted more slowly. These unique challenges faced by Black women — and women of color more broadly — are examined in LeanIn.Org & McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study.

“The pay gap facing Black women is an urgent problem,” said Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org. “It has huge financial implications for millions of families. And it signals something deeply wrong in our economy. We need to address the gender and racial inequalities that give rise to this imbalance — and create workplaces where everyone’s labor is valued, everyone is treated with respect, and everyone has an equal shot at success.”

More FindingS From 2018 Black Women’s Equal Pay Survey

Almost everyone agrees that earning less is a huge problem. 85% of Americans think it would be a major problem or crisis if they earned 40% less money. Yet compared to White men, Black women face this pay gap every day.

When people know there’s a pay gap, they think it’s unfair. When presented with information that Black women on average are paid 38% less than White men, 72% of Americans think it’s not fair.

The pay gap between Black and White women is even less understood. On average, Black women are paid 21% less than White women. Yet 50% of Americans — as well as 45% of hiring managers — think Black women and White women are paid equally. And 77% of working Americans think no gap exists between Black and White women in their own organizations.

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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