Author Leslie Mac created a Twitterstorm of conversation when she created the #PayBlackWomen hashtag earlier this afternoon. The topic began trending nationwide, with many women joining the discussion with their own professional anecdotes and experiences.
Politicians, activists, and social media influencers helped to make the hashtag become viral.
The facts are simple–Black women earn .63 cents to every White man’s dollar. Black women have to work a whopping 8 months more a year to make what a white man would earn in a calendar year. The wage disparity is exasperated by the lack of women in leadership roles. Executive positions are usually high earning, and employees in those positions are also the decision makers when it comes to hiring, work culture and paid leave time (which could include days allocated to maternity leave). As of 2014, Black women only held 1.5 percent of senior level positions in America, according to the Washington Post.
In the absence of executive leadership role opportunities and salaries, Black women encompass a large majority of the low paying hourly wage food industry, with 28% of Black women holding service roles compared to 17.4% of White women. These smaller salaries are often stretched to provide for entire families, with 45% of Black families in America being supported by women as the head of household, according to the Department Of Labor.
Bringing in a dismal yearly income is also not enough to cover the massive student loan burden that is crippling Black women in America. Yes, we are more educated on average then our male counterparts, but the consequences of this education is 14% more student loan debt.
And to top off the already insidious cocktail of pay wage issues, when women are in leadership positions, they are often diminished by their male counterparts via sexual harassment, misogynoir, idea theft, or social labeling such as “diva” or “bitch.”
Legislation wise, Black women and our allies can work to remedy this social and economic ill by supporting politicians who support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would help enforce the provisions of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Line items of the bill include requiring employers to demonstrate that wage differences are based on qualifications other than sex, prohibiting retaliation against employees who disclose their salary, and strengthening penalties for employers who violate the equal pay laws.
There are also motions in place to support affordable child care and paternal leave for parents, unions, anti-discrimination bills, and the one fair wage bill that would require all American restaurants to pay their employees at least minimum wage.