On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Essence and LeanIn.Org share the facts – WWD
The gender pay gap is a common topic of conversation in corporate spheres, despite how slowly companies are working to change it. But add race to that and, for black women in particular, the reality becomes even more dire.
This late stage of the year, when summer falls on September 21, means the approximate extra time black women must work through 2022 in order to earn what their white male counterparts had earned by the end of 2021. Hence its recognition as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
To mark this, Essence partnered with LeanIn.org, founded by Sheryl Sandberg, a nonprofit promoting gender equality, for a discussion of facts and impact.
“Equal Pay Day isn’t just about a single check, it’s about how much money black women lose,” said Nikki Tucker, social media manager at LeanIn.Org, who hosted the conference. “And black women lose about $1 million in income over their lifetime.”
[Read more on what this means for the gender retirement income gap.]
Specifically, that’s more than $964,000, according to Lean In, who cited statistics from the National Women’s Law Center. And in contrast, white women lose $555,000 over their lifetime compared to white men.
Black women earn 58 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, or 42% less (21% less than white women).
For Pauline Malcolm-Thornton, chief revenue officer at Essence, who spoke during the video chat, she thought sales would be the best place to achieve balanced compensation before her role at Essence, but that didn’t happen. turned out to be the case.
“When I moved into management, we all talked about how much we were earning. I had a bigger team than what [my white male colleague] had at the time, so I was deeply disappointed and always thought it was really a meritocracy. I’m in sales, the numbers don’t lie. I had the top performing team and here I am paid nearly $100,000 less than my white counterpart,” she said.
The gap was substantial, and it was only after independent research with her female peers to determine compensation salaries and actual negotiation with her superiors that Malcolm-Thornton was able to achieve what she called a ” course correction” with his salary. And it took another year for that negotiation to be reflected in his salary.
Katrina Jones, vice president of human resources and operations at Lean In, was underpaid compared to someone of her rank before joining her current role. And for Erika Bennett, director of marketing at Essence, who said she had “negotiated through hell” from a role she had before her current position, HR then told her never to tell anyone what she was doing, although it was a protected position. activity under the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Executive Order 11246.
“It’s a way to prevent people in certain positions from claiming what’s right for them,” Bennett said.
The problem of equal pay for black women runs deep. With Black women accounting for less than 2% of VP and C-suite level positions, as well as the largest share of student loan debt in the United States, according to Lean In, the long-term impact on financial stability in black communities is out of the ordinary.
According to Jones, a link in the corporate chain that feeds into these facts is that black women are not being promoted.
“We talk about that middle rung and why it’s broken — black women aren’t promoted, they’re less likely to be promoted, and they just walk away,” she said. “When you look at these numbers, you see black women becoming entrepreneurs, which is amazing, but I often wonder how many have given up on their careers because it’s just too much.”
Bennett said she had spent two years for marketing director positions, and had been repeatedly turned down because the prerequisite was to have held the position before. It was Richelieu Dennis, owner and entrepreneur of Essence, who gave her the opportunity based on her job and what she would bring to the organization.
Supporting this, Malcolm-Thornton said, “As Erika [Bennett]I would get that VP or SVP role, but not the top job because they always felt more comfortable with a white male in that seat, in my experience.
Solving equal pay for black women, like women’s pay in general, will not have a silver bullet, but companies must actively prioritize it. And increasingly, an increasingly conscious workforce will allow for nothing less.
What companies need to prioritize, panelists say, are pay transparency, mentorship beyond the entry level, flatter organizational structures that allow more employees to contribute meaningfully and to be heard, and real and fair career development and promotion paths that favor representation where the company lacks it the most.
For black women, Malcolm-Thornton recommends prioritizing maintaining a professional network to stay informed about compensation salaries, starting high in salary negotiation (“if you try to land at $350,000, you start to $425,000, $450,000”), and asking the right questions in the interview process, like how does the company promote and how does it treat employees in certain situations.
“I think part of the discussion about the pay gap needs to be about the ability of black women to present themselves fully and completely, but as themselves and that’s enough to collect the pay we deserve in depending on what we bring to the table,” Bennett said.
According to the American Association of University Women, a non-profit organization fighting for the advancement of women since 1881, Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is November 30, and Native women receive 50 cents for every dollar of every white man. And December 8 marks Equal Pay Day for Latina women, as they would be paid 49 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.