Yahoo: Why the pay gap is growing for Black women: ‘We are in a state of emergency’
September 21. 2022
“One of the reasons why Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is in September rather than August is that we wanted to include data that reflected the reality of part-time seasonal and gig workers,” Delia Coleman, deputy director for Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), tells MAKERS. “Many of whom are Black and brown women. Many of whom are essential workers piecing together a patchwork of multiple part-time jobs just to get by.”
The pandemic exacerbated this problem for Black women. Many did not have the luxury of working from home and struggled to find care for their kids when schools and day cares shut down. “Child care disruptions were forcing them to leave their jobs, cut back on hours or give up shifts,” Coleman says. “They’re like, ‘OK, you need time off early so that you can pick up your child from school? We can’t do that. So don’t come back.’”
“It’s important to talk about pay with your colleagues,” Coleman advises. “It’s also helpful to know that there are policies in place that back you up as a worker.” The ERA has created a Policy Hub with an interactive map to help you find out which equal pay laws exist in your state.
Ask your boss if your company has conducted equal pay audits and if so, demand to see those numbers. “Sadly, some employers keep those things secret. And you can’t fix what you can’t see,” explains Coleman. “Pushing for really high levels of transparency is really, really important.”
Beyond the individual worker, Coleman says there is an important role for corporate America and government officials to play in the fight for equal pay. “Most of the burden of this change must come from employers and policymakers,” she states. “Workplaces in the 21st century need to modernize, which means that they have to provide Black women with what Black women need to stay in the workforce: paid family and caregiver leave, pregnancy accommodations and fair and equitable wages.” Coleman says employers also need to provide salary ranges to every worker as well as clear guidance on the steps it takes to move from one level to another.
Coleman says despite the many challenges facing Black women in the workplace, she remains hopeful. “These solutions are within our reach. Right now, we have a patchwork of laws, and that patchwork is allowing Black women to fall through the gaps. Employers have to be proactive with their policies to fill those gaps. And for those who aren’t going to fill those gaps of their own volition, we need federal laws so that rights don’t rely on a person’s zip code.”