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Black Women's Equal Pay Day highlights how Black women lose nearly $1M over their careers

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy
Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Black women in the United States who work full time, year-round are typically paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men — and that number has not budged in the last 25 years.

For women overall, the wage gap stands at 82 cents for every dollar paid to men.

August 13 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year Black women working full time need to work to earn what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts earned in 2019.

This wage gap costs Black women $23,653 a year, according to a new analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. Over a 40-year-career, the wage gap translates to a staggering $946,120.

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“We owe Black women so much more. Especially right now in the middle of this pandemic, the wage gap has robbed them of their ability to weather this storm,” said Jasmine Tucker, director of research for NWLC. “They don't have the financial cushion, they don't have any savings because we haven't been paying them what we owe them. And that's just straight earnings that doesn't even account for if they were able to put any money away, if they were able to buy a house, the equity, the wealth that they could have built for themselves over that time.”

On Thursday, Sister to Sister International, a Yonkers-based nonprofit which is dedicated to the empowerment of Black women and girls in Westchester and Rocklandcounties, will participate in a tweetstorm using the hashtag #BlackWomenEqualPayDay from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to raise awareness.

Community partners including the Westchester Women's Agenda, Jack and Jill of America Inc's Rockland Orange Chapter, PowerHer NY, American Association of University Women, Westchester County Youth Bureau, Westchester County Office for Women and Westchester Children's Association will be participating in the effort, said Cheryl Brannan, founder of the nonprofit.

“It's very, very fundamental and it's tremendously impactful on the life of a Black woman. It influences what kind of disposable income she has, where she may be able to live, her access to education and educational opportunities perhaps for her children,” said Brannan. “It clearly impacts the quality of life for Black women.”

Black women make up 11% of the front-line workforce despite only making up 6.3 percent of the workforce overall, according to NWLC.

More than 26% of personal care aides, home health aides and nursing assistants working full time, year-round are Black women but they are still paid less than white, non-Hispanic men in the same jobs.

“This pandemic has really highlighted all of the systemic ways in which we undervalue women's work and especially Black women's work and how we've underpaid them for so long,” said Tucker. “And if now is not the moment to fix this, I really don't know when it will be.”

One of the focus areas for Sister to Sister International has been to encourage Black girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM), which have the least wage disparities. The nonprofit organizes annual summer STEM camps for Black and girls of color.

“When they pursue those fields, that they're more likely to have less of a pay disparity,” said Brannan. “And you get paid almost twice as much in STEM fields than you do a non-STEM field.”

In the fall, the nonprofit will also facilitate training on salary negotiation.

“We want to make sure women are comfortable negotiating their salaries. When you go into the workforce, you need to understand that these pay inequities exist,” she said. “This is what you're up against, and you need to learn strategies to help promote yourself, to look for mentors, to hold your place of work accountable.”

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy covers women and power for the USA Today Network Northeast.Click here for her latest stories. Follow her on Twitter at @SwapnaVenugopal. Support local journalism; go to lohud.com/specialoffer to find out how.