August 3rd is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which marks how far Black women must work into 2021 in order to reach the same earnings that white, non-Hispanic men made in 2020 alone.
Addressing pay equity must always center the experiences of Black women and acknowledge the intersecting layers of discrimination that perpetuate the pay gap for Black women. On Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, it is important to recognize that a Black woman working full-time for a year must work for 8 additional months to earn what a white man would make in the previous year alone, but we must continue to talk about and address the racial disparities in pay the rest of the year as well.
Based on U.S. Census data, the 2021 wage gap for Black women compared to white men is 63 cents per dollar, widening the gap from the previous year. Wages are even lower for Black working mothers, who earn just 52 cents for every dollar earned by white fathers. Many factors contribute to these disparities in pay, including systemic inequalities due to racism and sexism, wage secrecy, the consistent undervaluing of women’s work and the needs of working families, pregnancy and caregiver discrimination, and occupational segregation that places many workers of color in lower-paying, physically demanding occupations.
As we have heard from workers through our free and confidential legal helpline, these factors are especially pronounced in Southern states, where Black women make up larger populations of the workforce. States like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas have some of the largest shares of Black women working, year round, yet continue to face substantial wage disparities. In order to fully solve the issue of unequal pay for Black women, we must center the needs and experiences of Black working women and mothers who live in the South.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day highlights the urgent need to pass legislation to protect Black women’s health and economic security while caring for their families. Over 80% of Black mothers are key breadwinners for their families, meaning their households rely heavily on their wages to make ends meet. A PEW Research study from October 2020 found that 34% of mothers (compared to 26% of fathers) reported needing to reduce their work hours to balance parenting responsibilities.
Enacting stronger protections for working parents and caregivers is a crucial step towards addressing the longstanding structural inequalities that negatively affect Black women’s lives and livelihoods. A Better Balance continues to lead the fight for policies such as:
- The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would ensure that pregnant workers everywhere have the right to reasonable pregnancy accommodations when they need them. Pregnant workers are too often denied simple accommodations like a chair or breaks to drink water and instead pushed out of the workforce when they need their paycheck the most, which can snowball into lasting economic disadvantage, dragging down women’s wages, especially for Black and Latina women. The PWFA will put a stop to that once and for all.
- Paid family & medical leave and paid sick days, which are increasingly popular amongst Black women. In a survey of 2020 voters, more than 9 in 10 Black women surveyed felt strongly that Congress should pass paid family and medical leave legislation (91%) and paid sick days legislation (94%).
- The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which will increase critical protections for nursing parents, ensuring millions of workers have a clear right to the time and space they need to pump breastmilk at work.
Together, along with other critical policies like flexible scheduling and affordable child care, enacting these laws will help address a major underlying cause of the gender wage gap: women—especially Black women and other women of color—being disproportionately penalized in the workplace or pushed off the job due to parenting or caregiving responsibilities. We are committed to continuing this important work until the pay gap for Black women is fully eradicated.