The pay gap persists.
Women are paid 80 cents to every dollar paid to men, according to an April report from the National Partnership for Women & Families. But if you break this figure out by race, education level and experience, you’ll find that the wage gap is not the same for all women.
Black women have to work an extra eight months to make the same wages as white male counterparts made in 2017, meaning that Aug. 7 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Black women made an average of 66 cents on the dollar paid to white men in 2017, regardless of education, experience and location, according to a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.
Slow wage growth, class inequality and gender and race bias all factor in to the wage gap for black women in the U.S.
“We have laws on the books that outlaw discrimination but it still happens,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the program on race, ethnicity and the economy at the institute and co-author of the report. “We want to have greater pay transparency so there is accountability on some of these differences.”
The institute has also looked at data to debunk common myths about inequality. One is that education would narrow the wage gap for black women. However, black women make less than men at every level of education, even when working the same jobs as men, the analysis found.
Another myth is that women choose lower-paying jobs and careers than men.
To assess this, the institute measured occupational segregation, which Wilson explains is how people of different demographic groups are more likely to be concentrated in certain parts of the workforce. The analysis focused on changes in occupational segregation over time.
There has been only a slight reduction in occupational segregation from 2000 to 2016, meaning that black women are still more likely to be employed in lower-paying jobs than white men, the analysis found.
“Sometimes it is choice, but often not a complete choice,” said Wilson. Racial, gender and societal biases can limit opportunities for black women.
Some careers, especially those still dominated by white men, can be difficult to break into, especially as a woman and a person of color. In her practice as a financial advisor, Zaneilia Harris looks to empower all women with a financial plan, and often helps her clients negotiate salaries and think about their career trajectory.
“They may not have access to mentors and sponsors,” said Harris, who is a certified financial planner and president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management. “You’re trying to figure all of this out on your own.”
Harris hopes that the trend of disruption continues and encourages more women and people of color to pursue careers that interest them.
“In an industry dominated by men, being there is a disruption,” she said. “I’m going to attract to me the clients who can appreciate what I bring to the table.”
There’s an economic cost to inequality, even for those who do not feel discrimination, said Wilson.
Economic growth is generated by how much money people have to spend, which is driven by income.
“Half of our population is earning less than they should be,” Wilson said. “That has a broader impact on communities, family and the economy.”
Continuing economic growth is beneficial to everyone, said Wilson. Even though the economy is currently doing well in many areas, slow wage growth has been a sore point.
“It’s one thing to narrow the gap in terms of equalizing men and women’