According to Equal Pay Today, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is observed today, on July 27. The date shifts every year as a reflection of how far into the year Black women need to work to “catch up” to white men. In other words, this year Black women must work an extra seven months to earn what a white man earns in 12 months. In 2022, the date was September 21, marking a backslide from 2021 when the annual event was observed on August 3.
A report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) sheds light on the barriers that women, especially women of color, face in employment, health, and overall well-being. If prompt action is not taken to address these pay gaps, the repercussions could be felt for generations to come.
The NWLC report presents a somber example to illustrate the pay gap's impact practically: If a Black woman and a white, non-Hispanic male both start working at the age of 20, the Black woman would have to work until she is 83 years old to earn what the white man earns by the age of 60. This inequality has serious implications for all aspects of Black women's lives.
History and Impact
The National Committee on Pay Equity established the observance in 1996. This year, they have pegged July 27 as the date of observation. It is, they say “a symbolic date close to the ‘catch up’ date or to coincide with other advocacy events.” For Black women it’s calculated based on 64 cents, the portion of a dollar earned compared to white men. July 27 is the point in the year where they “catch up” to white men.
And, arguably, the date being earlier this year than in 2022 represents some progress. That’s something to celebrate.
Still, there’s clearly a long way to go. Equal Pay Today reports: “Based on Census data from 2022, the wage gap for Black women compared to non-Hispanic white men is 67 cents for full-time, year-round workers, and 64 cents for all workers (including part-time).
The event also highlights the intersectionality that occurs across all aspects of diversity—in this case Black women occupy two minority categories, they’re both Black and female. That means they’re doubly impacted.
Steps Being Taken to Level the Playing Field
While equal pay has been an issue on the forefront of labor law for several years—dating back to the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938 and the Equal Pay Act which was enacted in 1963. We’re closing in on a century of inequities in pay that have a marked negative effect on a significant percentage of our population.
Today, more laws are being passed on the state and local levels, and there is some teeth to these laws that, hopefully, will prompt more measurable impact.
Risk and Reward
For organizations around the country there is both risk and reward related to how successfully they can close pay gaps. The risk: fines and sanctions related to discriminatory pay practices. The reward: the ability to attract top talent and strengthen the company brand.
Another reward: pay equity also helps organizations achieve the “S” in ESG—Environmental, Social, and Governance reporting is top-of-mind for many organizations these days as they work to meet newly emerging requirements and expectations from groups like the SEC, Nasdaq, and others.
Taking proactive steps to support pay equity is not only for the common good, but also addresses shareholder and prospective employee demands. Both stakeholder groups are increasingly gauging organizations’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) when it comes to deciding where to invest or work.
Taking Steps to Support Pay Equity
There are some important steps companies can take to ensure that their pay practices are, and stay, equitable. These include: