Black women have maintained the highest workforce participation rate for women in the nation and are graduating from bachelor and graduate degree programs at higher rates than any other community both by race and gender.
Yet, despite these statistics, Black/African American women are paid only $0.63 on the $1.00. Meaning that, to achieve wage parity, Black women must work an additional three months and seven months to achieve equity with their white female and male counterparts, respectively.
There are many contributors to the continued wage gap, including most notably employment discrimination, gender and race-based bias, lack of pay transparency. The income inequality impacts economic mobility of Black women, this extends to home ownership, savings and retirement, lack of affordable child care, adequate access to capital and academic opportunities for Black women, among other limitations.
The impact of the wage gap is not only seen in lower home ownership rates, savings and retirement, and academic opportunities for Black women, but also in diversity and employee retention efforts.
Workplace wage gaps impact Black woman in two notable ways that negatively impact the bottom line for businesses:
Employee retention. According to the US Department of Labor, in 2015 Black women represented roughly 37% of the 9.2 million employed Black women holding management or higher level positions in comparison to roughly 47.5% for non-Hispanic White women. For corporations seeking to increase their executive talent pipeline, the feeling of equal treatment both in management and financial compensation becomes increasingly important in the highly competitive job market. The most recent high-profile example of employee retention issues associated with compensation and position, can be seen by the abrupt departure of Uber’s Bozoma Saint John, who despite having the credentials and certainly the notoriety, was never promoted to the Chief Marketing Officer role that originally enticed her interest in working with the firm despite notable issues with corporate culture.
Employee Burnout. Many Black women face the double tax of needing to employ multiple jobs or side-hustles to help them reach parity. In fact, a report by the Center for American Progress found that Black women had the highest rate of part-time employment for economic reasons. Taking on additional hours or jobs can increase stress and anxiety related health conditions of Black women who find themselves overstretched. To compound this issue, Black women are more likely to find themselves as the single-income head of households with roughly one-third of all Black households being led by a Black woman.
Not addressing the wage-gap for Black women can cost employers brand and reputation, talented executives and has the potential to increase insurance expenses and out-of-office sick leave due to health conditions. In each of the aforementioned cases, simply paying Black women their worth - on par with their counterparts - is always the cheaper option.
Natalie Madeira Cofield is the Founder & CEO of Walker’s Legacy the largest digital platform for the professional and entrepreneurial multicultural woman. She is a frequent speaker, author and sought-after subject expert on topics related to entrepreneurship and business for women and underrepresented communities.