IMAGES MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
Today is "Black Women's Equal Pay Day," or the day of the year black women must work to to earn the same wages as a white man earned during the previous year (2016).
"Equal Pay Day" recognizes pay inequity for all women and generally falls in spring, but today's date recognizes the stark differences in wages between white women and women of color. According to figures offered by the National Women's Law Center
(NWLC), women in the aggregate make about 80 cents for every dollar made by a man, but black women nationwide make 63 cents — a loss of $21,001 a year, relative to men. And the gap is even larger in Louisiana, where black women make just 48 cents
for every dollar made by a man.
Pay equity advocates note that wage disparities persist across professions and education levels, and that when women begin to surge into male-dominated fields, compensation falls accordingly
. NWLC data says even black women who are doctors and surgeons make 54 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Black women also are more likely to be paid less than men even for positions that researchers already consider low-wage, such as cashiers, salespeople and cleaning professionals like janitors and building cleaners.
Underpayment is important because it has a domino effect on women's financial security. For example, as women make less money over the course of their careers, they are less likely to be able to save enough money for a comfortable retirement — a risk heightened by the fact that women tend to outlive their partners
. Depressed wages are self-perpetuating, as a woman who is underpaid in one position may have to negotiate from that salary level for future opportunities. And chronic financial insecurity also increases a woman's economic prospects and even her safety; a woman who isn't making enough money can't quit her job to go look for another one, and financial need is a key reason
women stay with abusive partners.
Independent Women's Organization, a Democratic women's organization, issued a statement Sunday recognizing the importance of Black Women's Equal Pay Day in Louisiana and calling for greater "equality and economic security."
"Over time, women of my generation lose on average hundreds of thousands to a million or more dollars from this pay back," IWO recording secretary Nakita Shavers said. "When I learned that the gap between black and white women was growing — I was horrified! We are going in the wrong direction."