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We Need A Resolution: The Pay Gap Is Even Wider For Black Women

Ahead of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, Sweet July powered a survey to understand the sentiments of Black women when it comes to pay equity. Here are our findings.

Today is Black Women Equal Pay Day, and while it might be viewed as just yet another “observation” on the calendar, it should be a time to get loud and raise awareness like never before.  

Especially since, for Black women, the pay gap is even wider this year. Black women are paid 58 cents to the one dollar that non-Hispanic white men make in one year—five cents less than last year. In addition to finding workplaces that are diverse and inclusive, pay inequity continues to be an issue that plagues Black women—regardless of the industry or sector we may work in.

From August 30 to September 12, Sweet July conducted a survey open to individuals who identified as Black women, and of the 150 responses we received were a wide range of ages, locations, professions, and of course, experiences.  

 Here are a few top-level results from the survey:  

76 percent of Black women respondents feel they are not paid what they deserve. 

80 percent of Black women respondents feel they are not paid fairly relative to what their white colleagues make. 

61.2 percent of Black women respondents feel they are not supported enough at work to ask for a raise.  

78.7 percent of Black women respondents have considered “quiet quitting” or fully resigning as a result of burnout or frustration.  

These results are far from surprising. It only emphasizes why we should raise our voices today (and every day!) about the importance of achieving equitable opportunities for Black women. As Vice President Kamala Harris said in her acceptance speech, “Black women are the backbone of our democracy,” and with our innovation and creativity, Black women keep both the private and public sectors moving forward, too.  

Pay Me What You Owe Me

Pay equity seems like it would be a logical concept in 2022, but as practices of systemic racism and discrimination across various facets of our culture still run rampant, closing the wage gap for Black women still seems like an incredible feat. If you’re wondering exactly how wage gap numbers are calculated, The Center for American Progress reported the key contributing factors. 

For context, annually, “the wage gap is calculated by finding the ratio of women’s to men’s median earnings for full-time, year-round workers and then taking the difference,” the organization states. Additionally, the report sheds light on how the coronavirus pandemic, which shook the entire global labor market, caused many women of color—particularly in roles within the service industry—to experience burnout, and receive lesser pay.

“Pay equity should be seen as a business imperative. Not only do you need equity of compensation, you need equity of representation at all levels—including opportunity and well-being.” – Brian Reaves, chief belonging, diversity & equity officer at UKG

In addition to 76 percent of survey respondents who feel they aren’t paid adequately, our survey also found that 64 percent of respondents believe that the ongoing pandemic and current inflation have impacted their income. And when it comes to additional factors that contribute to their disappointing salaries, common responses included roadblocks such as outdated company practices, office politics, industry competitiveness, and racism.

A 33-year-old who works in the healthcare industry shared that she asked for a raise last October after taking on more work, but has yet to see an increase in pay. “I asked whether a bonus or extra compensation would be given, but was responded to that raises happen each fall and we missed it,” she says. “I’ve continued to ask about raises despite being told about October being the timeframe. Only time will tell if anything will happen. If I don’t get the raise, I can see them using some excuse about me being on medical leave as a reason why I didn’t qualify—and that would be so wrong.” 

Brian Reaves, who serves as chief belonging, diversity & equity officer at UKG—an HR solutions management company—shared that companies must first shift their mindset before putting initiatives in place. “Pay equity should be seen as a business imperative, and at UKG, we’re trying to inspire our customers and our partners to do the same,” he tells Sweet July. “We’re also inspiring them to think beyond the tactics of pay equity and think more broadly to what we call an ecosystem of equity. Not only do you need equity of compensation, you need equity of representation at all levels—including opportunity and well-being.” Implementing these methodologies, he believes, will begin to uncover some of the systemic issues that cause pay inequities.   

The Era Of Quiet Quitting

Over the last several months, the notion of “quiet quitting” has been taking over social media timelines. Quiet quitting can be simply defined as refraining from going above and beyond in your role. So in essence, quiet quitters aren’t quitting their jobs, they just aren’t doing extra work. In our survey, 78.7 percent of respondents have considered “quiet quitting” or fully resigning as a result of burnout or frustration. With remote working increasing substantially since March 2020, some Black women professionals in full-time roles are rethinking the way in which they show up professionally, and are reconsidering the “hustle and grind” culture of yesterday. Others, with the notion that they already have to work twice as hard to earn half as much, feel the concept of “quiet quitting” doesn’t apply to them—so they’re outright quitting for better opportunities instead. 

“If Black women are paid more, we would be able to build generational wealth and actively invest, save and participate in other revenue generating exercises.” – Nadia Vanderhall, finance and branding professional

For a 34-year-old who has worked in the arts and entertainment industry for over a decade, quiet quitting hasn’t exactly been on her radar, but she has been intentional about working smarter, not harder. “I’m simply doing my job and setting boundaries on my time and energy,” she tells Sweet July. “When I decided to return to media full-time, I wanted to make sure to do everything within my power to protect my peace, which includes signing off on time, taking a lunch break away from my desk, and speaking up when my to-do list gets too long.” And while she’s only been in this role for a few months, she’s already got her eye on a senior role and more pay. “I asked for this once I was offered the role and although it wasn’t in the budget at the time, I plan to revisit in six months as promised during negotiations.”

It Bears Repeating: We Need A Resolution 

It’s not enough to just hire Black women, compensation must be holistic, consistent, and realistic. The Center for American Progress reports that “over the course of a 40-year career, Black women lose an estimated $964,400 to the wage gap.” That’s close to a million dollars that’s being left on the table. Melissa Thomas-Hunt, a professor at University of Virginia’s Darden and Batten Schools, says that negotiating for higher wages is a huge responsibility put on Black women, something that they shouldn’t have to endure alone. “Part of the way we learn how to do that smartly and appropriately is through our social capital and our social networks,” she says. “I’m always an advocate for building relationships before you need them and eliciting mentors and sponsors who will help you navigate what you actually can ask for.” That said, the onus should ultimately be on companies and corporations to make the commitment to increase pay equity, Thomas-Hurt emphasizes. 

It isn’t just dollars and cents that Black women are being denied in the widening pay gap, but it is also the freedom to create a life that is debt-free and sustainable for generational wealth. Nadia Vanderhall, who is a finance and branding professional, shares that paying Black women more will ultimately have a long-lasting impact on their health and well-being. “If Black women are paid more, we would be able to build generational wealth and actively invest, save and participate in other revenue generating exercises,” she says. “We have trillion-dollar spending power; we deserve to earn more and have more net-worth as well!”  

In other words: Black women are worthy, capable, qualified and deserve to take up valued space in any and all industries. Here’s hoping there’s a future job market to reflect that.

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