Pay grade

Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns.

BY KEISHA BELL | Visionary Brief

What is fair about earning 63 cents to every dollar a white man earns?  This is the wage ratio of African-American women when compared to white men collected by the Census Bureau.  Data indicates that for white women, it is 73 cents.

Maybe if her expenses were discounted, it would not “hurt” so deeply. It does hurt, however, and the pain is felt in numerous areas throughout her life.  Her knack for stretching a dollar amazes many, herself included.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of black and brown women graduate from high schools, colleges, and universities, symbolizing the official launch of her professional pursuits.  Has anyone talked to her about the potential impact of pay inequities over the course of her lifespan?  The tradition of moving her tassel from the right side to the left side denotes her progress towards full-time employment status, to being Miss Independent, to doing the “dang thang.”  Is she conscious about being paid her worth?

Let’s do the math.  Research has shown that earning 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns means black women will typically lose more than $840,000 over a 40-year career when doing the same job.  Can you see how her wealth-building is hindered?  Not only does this impact her, but it also impacts her family and community.

Interestingly, there was a time when black women stood on auction blocks and would be “awarded” to the highest bidder.  Those desiring her “work” were willing to pay top dollar for it.  Is her fee for considerably better working conditions 37 cents on every dollar earned?

It is easy for people to say they believe in equal pay, but who is providing income opportunities for this equality for black women?  Who celebrates her when she obtains positions and pay grades that reflect this progress?  Who is actively helping her climb the financial ladder, knowing that others like her will follow?

As a child, she is told, “You can become anything you want.”  She studies. She dreams. She becomes the woman of her dreams.  Something is missing.

“When will I earn what he does?” time teaches her to ask.  Like others, she awaits the answer.  In the meantime, she continues to ask.

If black women do not advocate for themselves to obtain equal pay, then her wait for others to do so on her behalf may never come.  After all, being black, professional, and woman is a combination still foreign to many.

This year, July 31 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.  Just as graduations have been highlighted on family calendars, so should this day.  Will you recognize it?  Will the graduate?

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant.

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