The Invisible World of Black Women at Work (The Wage Gap)
5 Hip-Hop Song Titles & Black Women's Wage Inequality
Admittedly, the subtitle of this article may be off putting for some readers given the gravity of the topic but, let’s face it, the topic we’ve been exploring together over the course of this series is a heavy one . . . . This article addresses the issue of pay inequality through the vehicle of hip hop song titles because as we address the ways in which corporate organizations continue to miss the mark, we need a little wry humor to remember the absurdity of it all.
A discussion on how to attract, retain, and develop black women talent would be incomplete without addressing the wage gap. One reason black women are not well-represented in the top corporate and industry sector jobs is the reality of pay inequality.
Admittedly, the subtitle of this article may be off putting for some given the gravity of the topic but, let’s face it, the topic we’ve been exploring together over the course of this series is a heavy one. The abysmally low numbers of representation for black women in leadership of large corporations, are grim. Yet, there is power in levity. The ability of black women to unpack their humor in suspecting places is a testament to their resilience and sharp wit. Bearing in mind that a very salient critique of hip-hop music is that, in many cases, it fails to address serious problems, hip hop can be a vehicle for addressing heavy subject matter. Moreover, summer means music festival season, and we could all use a moment of levity.
This article addresses the issue of pay inequality using the vehicle of hip hop song titles because as we address the ways the ways in which corporate organizations continue to miss the mark, we need a little wry humor to remember the absurdity of it all.
1. Started From the Bottom
Black women’s wage gap has persisted for decades.
In 1967, the earliest year for which wage data are available, the typical Black woman working full time was paid only 43 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
Today, that gap has narrowed by 20 cents. Black women working full time, year round are still paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
2. Black Effect
Working full time, year round, black women are typically paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white, male counterparts.
The wage gap between all men and women who work full time, year round in the United States is appalling. Generally, women in the U.S. are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap is even larger when looking specifically at black women who work full time, year round. Black women have to work 7 additional months each year—until the very last day of July—to make as much as their white male counterparts did in the previous 12-month calendar year. This gap amounts to a shocking loss of $21,001 a year.
3. Money Bag
Black women are typically paid less than white men in the same occupations. This is true whether they work in low wage or high wage occupations.
In low wage jobs, Black women earn just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Black women who work full time, year round in low wage occupations typically take home $21,700 annually. Compare this to the $36,000 typically paid to white men in the very same occupations. This annual loss of $14,300 equals more than enough money of the earnings needed to pay for a year of rent or more than a year and a half of childcare costs.
Black women in high wage occupations are paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white men in the same occupations. Compare the $70,000 paid to Black women in high wage occupations to the $110,000 typically paid to white men in the same jobs. This annual loss of $40,000 each year or $1.6 million dollars over a 40-year career is astounding.
Even higher education doesn’t close to the wage gap. Consider this comparison:
Black women with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid $46,694.
With only a high school diploma, white men are paid $46,729.
Black women with a Master’s degree are paid about $56,072.
With just an Associate’s degree, white men are paid about $54,620.
In certain states, Black women’s wage gap is even wider.
While Black women can face even steeper wage gaps depending on where they live. Louisiana is the worst culprit when examining wage equality for black women. Black women typically are less than 50 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
In Washington, D.C., Black women experience the third-worst wage gap in the country. In the nation’s capital black women are paid 53 cents for for every dollar paid to white men. Notably the gap for black women becomes even more glaring in Washington, D.C., since, when comparing the earnings of all women to the earnings of all men, the wage gap is just 14 cents.
5. All the Way Up
Underrepresented in high wage jobs, black women are overrepresented in low wage jobs.
Underrepresentation: High wage jobs are defined as those paying more than $48 per hour, or about $100,000 annually. Less than half of the black women in the overall workforce occupy those jobs. Consider that black women are 6.2 percent of the overall workforce, yet they make up only 2.7 percent of workers in high wage jobs.
Overrepresentation: Making up just 6.2 percent of the overall workforce, black women make up 10 percent of the low wage workforce. Low wage jobs pay less than $11 per hour, or about $22,880 annually.
In sum, “securing the bag” is much more complex than simply gaining an advanced degree or a position at the top company. Corporate organizations must honestly address pay inequality.
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As an employment attorney and human resources consultant, I look beyond merely addressing conflicts. I uncover pathways for a more nimble dialogue between organizations and their employees. I believe that an employee’s deep commitment to her work and personal identification with her company’s mission should be aligned her employer’s efforts to encourage and promote those values. An employee’s value should be reflected by her organization’s investment in retaining, developing, and promoting her. It’s clear from the research that when an employee’s dedication to her work is cultivated and deepened, the organization wins.
My work is based on my core belief that the quality of the experiences of my aunties, cousins, and friends depends on the concerted effort of their organizations to invest in a robust and genuine dialogue with them. My work is to create and nurture those pathways. And hey, if that results in making corporations a ton of money by uncovering ways to match the billion dollar market of black women clients and consumers, so be it!