By Marc H. Morial
“The equity gap is calculated not just on the basis of what the black female corporate lawyer makes, compared with her counterpart within the firm, but it looks at the median average salary … What is really bringing that wage gap down are the women on the low end. Black women are underrepresented in corporate and professional roles – what is it, 8 percent of us in corporate sector jobs? 2 percent in leadership positions? – despite the fact that we are the most educated group as a segment of the population. Where are we showing up mainly? In low-wage jobs. We make up 40% of health aides in America. You know what the average wage is for health aides? $21,000 … We’re not even hitting the federal poverty level.” – Jennifer Jones Austin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
This week, the National Urban League hosted the New York State Council on Women and Girls for a panel discussion on Black Women’s Pay Equity Day, featuring a distinguished group of women leaders led by Essence President Michelle Ebanks.
The civil rights icon Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference and member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, told of her years as a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet.
“It’s not easy to be a black woman,” she said. “But being an only child, and being a daddy’s girl, I was born to be a hell-raiser.”
Tuesday, August 7 was Black Women’s Pay Day – the day that represents how long women have to work in 2017 and 2018 to catch up to what white men made in 2017 alone. On average, Black women have had to work more than 19 months to make what white men made in 12. And this year, Black Women’s Pay Day was even later than it was last year – July 31.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, despite the myth that education would narrow the wage gap, black women make less than men at every level of education, even when working the same jobs as men.
While Black women with a high school education or less made 57.5 cents for every dollar made by a man of similar education in 2016, the pay gap among those with advanced degrees was only about two cents less – 59.6 cents on the dollar.
In response to the pay gap, Essence has launched the social media hashtag #AskYourWorth, urging women to demand equal pay.
One of the panel members, Blondel Pinnock, Senior Vice President, Chief Lending Officer, Carver Federal Savings Bank, drew cheers when she outlined the way she asked for her worth:
“I kept copious amounts of notes of everything that I was doing – every loan that I closed and the money that I made from the fees for those closed loans,” she said. “So when it was time for my performance review, I laid out, and everything that I had done. Here are all the transactions I have closed and here’s how much money I have made for this institution. And I got a raise.”
In addition to Ebanks, Dukes and Pinnock, other members of the panel were Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; Lola Brabham, Acting Commissioner, NYS Department of Civil Service; Janella Hinds, Vice President for Academic High Schools, UFT & Secretary-Treasurer, NYC Central Labor Council, and Farah Tanis, Executive Director, Black Women’s Blueprint.
“What a fantastic reminder of our culture: Black women supporting Black women supporting Black women,” Ebanks said. “That’s how we got here, that’s how we stay here, that’s how we go further.”