Let’s talk about progress.
Today, Aug. 13, is National Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. It marks how far into the current year Black women had to work in order to catch up to what white men earned the year prior.
Yes, that’s an extra eight months of labor, to earn equal annual pay.
By contrast (but no less concerning), most white women hit their Equal Pay Day on March 31.
While women working in the United States have, on average, consistently made less than their male counterparts, there had been some progress over the years. However, over the past decade, the narrowing of the gender wage gap has all but stalled, with women continuing to earn, on average, 80 cents to a man’s dollar. For Black women, those earnings are about 62 cents to a dollar. For Latina women, it’s 53 cents to a greenback, with their Equal Pay Day often falling in November, meaning they’re working close to two years to earn a white man’s annual income.
While these observances have always symbolized the unfortunate reality of wage inequity in the U.S. and elsewhere, the situation is made even more troubling amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, which continues to lay bare persistent disparities in America.
At this very moment, scores of minority women are in precarious circumstances. According to research by the National Women’s Law Center, women comprise two-thirds of the low-paid workforce in the country, often earning $12 or less per hour in roles such as grocery store cashiers, child care workers and home health aides.
It’s become a doubled-edged sword: Many women are finding themselves forced to jeopardize their health and that of their family members by attending their “essential” jobs at hospitals, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants. Or they’re being swept up in mass layoffs and furloughs at other low-paying jobs in retail and office administration, which have become first on the chopping block for cash-strapped employers.
What’s worse, since 64% of mothers serve as the primary, sole or co-breadwinners of their families, according to data from the Center for American Progress, many are often stretching meager incomes across entire households. And these realities disproportionately impact African American and Hispanic women.
According to research from the Office of Policy Development & Research and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, low-income people as well as racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by violent crimes. Meanwhile, factors such as viable job opportunities are associated with lower crime rates.
At a time when heightened national attention is being given to racial injustice in America, it is critical that we do not ignore the link between access and livable wages and better societal outcomes for everyone.
In short: America won’t win, if Black women can’t win.
That’s real progress.