'A very hurtful feeling:' Women share their experiences with pay gaps on Black Women's Equal Pay Day

Thursday, August 13, 2020
Women share their experiences with pay gaps on Black Women's Equal Pay Day
Women share their experiences with pay gaps on Black Women's Equal Pay Day

The wage gap between white men and all women for doing the same work is a widespread problem.

But the gap is significant among women of color, particularly Black women.

Many years ago, Kala Taylor learned the hard way as a new attorney that she was making thousands of dollars less than her white male colleague.

"I happened to look at some of the paper work that we were going through and I saw his salary. And his salary was $10,000 more than my salary. Same title. Same position. Our resumes looked at exactly the same," Taylor said. "My first thought was this is not fair. And then my second thought was. Maybe he asked for more."

Sharika M. Robinson, an attorney with her own law firm, shares her experience with wage gaps and racial bias in the workplace

Courtney Rhodes said she saw the wage gap after becoming a manager and noticed her new white male colleague was getting more than what she made when she first started.

"Even in my increase into a management position we weren't that far off," she said. "That was a very hurtful feeling because I had to work for years to convince people to get the raise."

August 13, 2020 is Black Women's Equal Pay Day. The movement is about bringing awareness to the wage disparity.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, white women make 77 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

For Black women, the figure drops to 62 cents.

According to a study by Lean In, despite Black women asking for promotions at the same rate as men, for every 100 men promoted to a management position, just 58 Black women get promoted.

Worker's rights advocates say the gap stems from systemic racism.

"It's long been true that women of color, Black women in particular are excluded from advancement opportunities due to institutional and interpersonal bias," said Ana Pardo, policy advocate for worker's rights with NC Justice Center.

Analysts say the issue mounts to $946,000 in lost earnings over the course of a Black woman's 40-year career.

It's a generational loss of wealth for Black women breadwinners supporting their households and in some cases extended family.

Taylor is now assistant dean for career and professional development at Campbell Law School in downtown Raleigh. Her passion now is helping new Black women lawyers negotiate their salaries and benefits.

"We have to remember this is about business. This is not about relationships. Don't think you're simply going to lose an opportunity by just asking for more," Taylor said.

Even in a pandemic Taylor says Black women should be asking and using websites like Glassdoor, Salary and Payscale to determine their industry's salary range.

Rhodes is now founder and coach of the Career Society.

She adds, Black women have to be comfortable asking their white counterparts what they make.

"Have in the back of your mind that you're at the back when it comes to the race. So you have to make sure you are getting yourself to the mark, and getting yourself to where you need to be to get yourself motivated," Rhodes said.

So what if you do all of that and the answer is still no on for pay increase?

Taylor says there are some other things you can negotiate like paid parking, gas card, company-paid technology and wireless devices.

Taylor says women could also ask about bonuses and reviews.

"You have to express you want to make more. You're not going to just stay where you are. You're hoping to go in and do good work and grow in that industry and or that particular organization," Taylor said.