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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is Another Reminder of Why We Need to Kick Kavanaugh to the Curb

This week we observe Black women’s equal pay day to recognize the fact that Black women have to work an extra 7 months to catch up to what their white, non-Hispanic male colleagues made the previous year. That’s what happens when you make 37 percent less than your colleagues. The wage gap for Black women has decreased by only 20 cents over the past 50 years. The numbers serve as evidence and a stark reminder that we haven’t made enough progress when it comes to equal pay for Black women and that waiting for change is costly. Isn’t it time we recognize that Black women face unique and multiple disadvantages that inhibit their earning potential and threaten their economic security?

The wage gap is even worse for Black women in several states. Idaho has the smallest wage gap among all of the states – 0.86 cents — but that’s still almost 15% less than what white, non-Hispanic men are paid. In Louisiana Black working women are paid less than 50% of what white, non-Hispanic men make, and 20 other states fall short of the national average:

  • Alabama ($0.58)
  • California ($0.62)
  • Connecticut ($0.57)
  • District of Columbia ($0.52)
  • Florida ($0.61)
  • Iowa ($0.59)
  • Louisiana ($0.47)
  • Massachusetts ($0.61)
  • Minnesota ($0.59)
  • Mississippi ($0.56)
  • Nebraska ($0.61)
  • New Jersey ($0.57)
  • North Dakota ($0.56)
  • Oklahoma ($0.60)
  • Rhode Island ($0.59)
  • South Carolina ($0.57)
  • Texas ($0.58)
  • Utah ($0.52)
  • Virginia ($0.60)
  • Washington ($0.62)
  • Wisconsin ($0.61)

Black women who are starting their careers this year, at let’s say 20 years old, will lose out on a staggering $867,920 over the course of a 40-year career. This appalling disparity in lifetime earnings highlights the way in which white, non-Hispanic men are better able to build wealth over their lifetime, especially compared to Black women. Building wealth allows them to pass along money to family members, further perpetuating and increasing the economic divide, all the while leaving Black women and their families even further behind. And that’s just adding the dollars up –if you invested that money in a savings account, or a retirement account, or an investment account, those dollars would quickly and exponentially grow. These dollars could help move Black women out of poverty, buy a car, purchase a home, invest in higher education, cover the cost of health care emergencies and more. Research indicates that single Black women have a median wealth (such as liquid cash savings, retirement savings, investments, real estate or businesses) of just $200, which is measly compared to the $28,900 single white, non-Hispanic men own.

via GIPHY

Despite the cost of higher education, the rate at which Black women are earning degrees from colleges and universities is continuing to grow. BUT even then they still can’t catch a break – Black women with a Bachelor’s or advanced degree are paid substantially less than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts with the same credentials. For example, the median annual earnings for a Black woman with a PhD is $66,717, compared to $107,474, the median annual income for a white, non-Hispanic man with a PhD. And Black women who have earned a Master’s degree earn only slightly more ($52,108) than a white, non-Hispanic man with an Associate’s degree ($50,938).

So even when Black women have the skills needed to be competitive in the job market why is that not reflected in their income? Well, one major driver of the wage gap is discrimination. Researchers studying the gender wage gap over time found that even when controlling for a host of factors, including skills, experience, and unionization, a large part of the gap (38 percent) continues to be unexplained. Discrimination and implicit biases have been identified as factors that contribute to the differences in wages between women and men because they are difficult to identify, record, and monitor – and therefore difficult to stamp out.

via GIPHY

Protecting women against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation could go a long way in reducing and eliminating the wage gap. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this Administration is going to take steps to advance progress. Just one example of the ways in which Trump is working to undermine the rights of Black women is his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh. Time and time again, Kavanaugh has ruled on the side of employers in employment discrimination claims brought by workers. He has gone so far as to argue that those who are protected by civil rights laws are less desirable employees—a troubling assumption and worldview. His nomination is then uniquely troublesome for Black working women who face sexual harassment in the workplace at higher rates than any other group of women, are the most likely of all women to be in a union, and are concentrated in low-wage work. If Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, it may be even harder for Black women who challenge discrimination – including unequal pay – to have their day in court.

Black working women need and deserve progress now. The next Supreme Court justice will decide cases critical to the future of working women and their families and has the ability to move us forward as a nation – to show the American people that we value the work of Black women. However, Kavanaugh’s record of undermining working people’s rights and safety in favor of employers and corporate interests demonstrates that he would block progress, not create it. And Black Women’s Equal Pay Day confirms that we don’t have that time to waste.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.