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How the pandemic slowed the progress of black women’s pay equity

August 3, 2021 is Black Women’s Compensation Day. This marks the day when black women are finally catching up to what non-Hispanic white men did in 2020.

Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar white men earn. Seen another way, it takes eight months and three extra days for black women to do what white men did in the previous calendar year. According to the National Women’s Law Center, this disparity has closed only three hundred in the past 30 years.

Black women also take longer to find work than their white counterparts. Over a 40-year career, black women lose $ 946,120.

A new report for the American Association of University Women describes how generations of systemic injustice have directly fueled the gender pay gap. From the end of slavery to de facto and de jure segregation and beyond, black women in general have never had the privilege of economic freedom.

When the pay equity conversations began, race was left out of the discussion, ignoring the unique experiences of black women and other women of color, Gloria Blackwell, senior vice president of the American Association of University Women, told HuffPost. She said the latest AAUW report outlining these historic inequalities aims to address this.

“Even after black American slavery ended, policies were put in place to ensure that black women and men did not have the opportunity to go forward and / or create or create of wealth in any setting, ”Blackwell said.

Black women held “very low-paid jobs that offered no protection … as housekeepers and housekeepers,” she continued. “They worked in the service sector, so the perpetuation of low-wage hourly jobs continues to this day. “

“Black women were also mixed in industries where there was less protection,” Blackwell added. “There was no way for them to have health insurance or paid sick leave, any way to create any wealth, no way to have a flexible work schedule.”

Over a 40-year career, black women lose on average nearly $ 1 million compared to white men.
Gloria Blackwell, American Association of University Women

For there to be systemic change, Blackwell said, there has to be “a drastic policy change that keeps the intersection of race and gender in mind.” And while black women have made gains, the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected them.

In May 2020, during the pandemic, the unemployment rate for black women hit 16.6% and remained in double digits for the next six months, according to the latest NWLC report. In June 2021, their unemployment rate fell to 8.5%, but it was still 1.7 times higher than their unemployment rate before the pandemic.

While there isn’t enough data to say that the pandemic has definitely widened the wage gap between white men and black women, Blackwell said, “It’s pretty clear from the research that has come out. that some of the gains we have seen in the past several decades at least may have been erased and the wage gap itself is going to take longer to close.

Blackwell noted that most of the jobs lost during the pandemic were service jobs mentioned in the report that employ large numbers of black women, including in retail, hospitality and tourism. Additionally, many black women, especially mothers, have faced financial constraints related to the coronavirus as their sole or main source of household income.

“So we see the pandemic as increasing the negativity around the ability of black women to advance in their careers, to be able to create and create wealth, to be able to have some of the flexibility and some of the support at the career level. that are really important in a career, ”she said.

“Student loans are also taken into account,” Blackwell said. “We know black women have more student loan debt overall. And a lot of these interim measures, housing, student loans, a lot of these things are being left out and people have to start pretending the pandemic never happened. They’re going to have a disproportionate impact, a bigger impact on black women. The earning power of black women has clearly been affected by the pandemic, and this will certainly contribute to a growing wage gap. “

The earning capacity of black women has clearly been affected by the pandemic, and this will certainly contribute to a growing wage gap.

Blackwell said that while states have their own pay equity laws, it is essential that they are enforced. She said the new policy, especially for the post-pandemic era, must focus on supporting child care, paid time off and protections against sexual, racial and other harassment in the workplace. .

Employers also need to be transparent and provide data on who gets paid what to identify where pay inequality exists. She added that no company should ask questions about candidates’ compensation history because “it’s another trap” that prevents women from receiving a fair wage.

“People are talking about the wage gap in this tiny area; they don’t understand the ramifications of what it means, ”Blackwell said. “In more than 40 years of career, black women lose on average nearly a million dollars compared to white men. I think there are a lot of things black women could do if they had a million dollars in that time. We could certainly close the wealth gap that keeps black women and their families from constantly struggling, not only to move forward, but to keep and keep pace.


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