- September 21 is Black Women's Equal Pay Day.
- It would take Black women working from the start of 2021 through today to earn as much as non-Hispanic white men made in just 2021.
- The pay gap affects Black women in multiple ways, including their savings for retirement.
September 21 is this year's Black Women's Equal Pay Day.
The day highlights how long it would take into 2022 for a typical Black woman starting at the beginning of 2021 to earn as much as a non-Hispanic white man made in 2021 alone because of the gender and racial pay gap.
Equal pay day is calculated based on the size of that wage gap. According to a recent analysis from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) using 2021 median earnings data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Black women made 64 cents for every dollar non-Hispanic white men made.
Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the NWLC, told Insider that the lost money over a Black women's career due to the wage gap is "life changing money." Martin said this happens because of "a lot of things, but a lot of the ways in which biases based on race and sex come together and close down opportunities" as well as "antiquated pay-setting practices."
According to NWLC's analysis on earnings from full-time, year-round workers, Black women lose over $20,000 a year in losses relative to non-Hispanic white men.
"The pay gap for Black women is the result of a few issues: racial and gender discrimination, the intersection of those two in the workforce, and also labor segmentation," C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, told Insider.
The over $900,000 in loses over a 40-year career for Black women from the pay gap can negatively impact Black women financially. Mason said the money lost due to the pay gap affects "their ability to build wealth." It also impacts "their ability to save for the future," including for retirement or paying for their children's college, and "ride out an economic storm," like the pandemic, according to Mason.
The labor force participation rate for Black women age 20 and over, which measures the share of that demographic group who are either working or actively looking for work, dropped from 63.9% in February 2020 to 59.3% two months later in April 2020 when employment across industries took a hit from the pandemic. That rate is still not back to the pre-pandemic figure, standing at 62.0% as of August 2022.
The pandemic and its recovery brought long-running racial and gender inequalities to the fore. Edwith Theogene, senior director of racial equity and justice at the Center for American Progress, told Insider the pandemic recovery in the US has been faster "than other recoveries that we've experienced in the past, and it also has been a more equitable process due to the leadership of the Biden administration and strong leadership that we have throughout the country." However, Theogene added that inequities still exist in the labor market and thus "a return to pre-pandemic levels should not be the goal because the gender gap and the racial wealth gap persisted and existed then."
Lauren Hoffman, associate director for women's economic security with the Women's Initiative at The Center for American Progress, also pointed to the Household Pulse Survey from the Census Bureau, which has been surveying people about how their lives have changed during the pandemic.
Hoffman said the survey shows "despite greater access to the labor market and a narrowing of the wage gap this year, many women are struggling to pay regular household expenses, with Black and Latina women feeling the greatest strains. So for example, six in 10 Black women aged 25 to 54 reported difficulty paying regular household expenses."
Hoffman highlighted some of the ways to close the pay gap. One way is to raise the minimum wage. Pay transparency measures, like the law recently passed by California, can help as well according to Hoffman. Things like paid family and medical leave, "reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers," and "providing workers with affordable, quality childcare," would also help, she added.
"I think from a racial equity perspective, there's a lot of work that needs to be done around the racial wealth gap because what we're trying to juggle basically is past harms and bad policies and generations of these historic bad policies, and then also trying to answer the call of people and their needs for today," Theogene said.