236 Days Into 2016, We Mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

Because Black women earn 60 percent of what white men make, it would take the average Black woman 601 days of work to earn the same amount that a white man made in one year alone.

That makes today’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day — the day that Black women finally catch up to white men’s pay for the past year—236 days into the following year.

On average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar white men earn; however, that oft-recited statistic is only part of the picture. Many women of color make significantly less than their white counterparts, with African-American women receiving 60 cents for every dollar a white man earns, and Latinas coming in at a paltry 55 cents per dollar.

So, what does this disparity in pay along race and gender lines mean for black women and their families?

According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women will typically lose nearly $877,480 to the wage gap over the course of a 40-year career. In six states, that number passes the $1 million mark – meaning it will typically take a Black woman almost 66 years to make what a white man makes in 40 years of employment.

Those extra 26 years are especially brutal when we know 45.6% of Black woman-headed households live in poverty.

On the legislative front, two equal pay champions – Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Barbara Mikulski – introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit retaliation for sharing pay information, allow workers to sue for damages from wage discrimination, and would require employers to prove that pay disparity is not on the basis of sex. Although many dedicated women Senators and equal pay advocates gathered in April to call for the measure’s passage, it has been repeatedly blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Though less well-known, the Fair Pay Act of 2015 was introduced in the U.S. House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in April of last year. The FPA would update the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on account of sex, race, or national origin and provide for equal pay for comparable work.

While these bills will not immediately correct the injustice done by gender and race discriminatory policies, they will empower women employees to take action if they suspect they are not being fairly compensated for their contributions just because of their gender.

Looking to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day with us? Atlanta Women for Equality will be leading a social media campaign to bring awareness to black women’s pay disparity. The goal of the picture is to show women workers metaphorically clocking out at 1:48 p.m.—the time (60% into a regular 9-5 workday) that the average Black woman would leave work to account for the typical wage gap if she were paid at the same hourly rate as the average white man.

Equal pay advocates will hold a Twitter storm from 2-3pm today using the hashtags #ClockOut4EqualPay, #BlackWomensEqualPay, and #60cents.

As Make It Work’s latest video says: When it comes to equal pay, stop dancing around the issue. Start asking questions.

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