Photo: Getty
  /  09.21.2022

Today (Sept. 21) is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and did you know that Black women make wages that are 42 percent less than white males and 20 percent less than white women?

This research is part of a larger conversation about pay parity and how behind Black women are in the fight for financial equity. Essence has partnered with Lean In, a non-profit organization founded by Sheryl Sandberg, that promotes equality in the workplace for a discussion of the facts and impact of this.

The pay gap starts with girls as young as 16 and continues to get worse as they progress through their education and careers. Black women enroll in college at higher rates than men, especially white men. But, Black women who have bachelor’s degrees still earn 36 percent less than white men with bachelor’s degrees on average. These wage discrepancies are detrimental to the financial well-being and professional success of Black women, causing them to lose out on around $1 million in income over the course of a 40 year career. According to Lean In, cited stats from the National Women’s Law Center states that is more than $964,000. White women are losing out on $555,000 over their lifetimes compared to white men. Black women earn 58 cents for every $1 a white man earns, or 42 percent less, which is 21 percent less than white women.

Pauline Malcolm-Thornton, chief revenue officer at Essence, thought that working in sales would be the best place to realize balanced pay before her current role, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. “When I moved into management, we were all talking about how much we made. I had a larger team than what [my white male colleague] had at that time, so I was deeply disappointed and thought all along that this was truly a meritocracy. I’m in sales, numbers don’t lie. I had the highest-performing team and here I am being paid almost $100,000 less than my white counterpart,” she said.

Katrina Jones, vice president of people and operations at Lean In, experienced being underpaid relative to someone her junior before joining her current role. And for Erika Bennett, chief marketing officer at Essence, who said she “negotiated the hell out of” a role she was stepping into before her current one, HR told her to never tell anyone how much she was making, despite that being a protected activity under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Executive Order 11246.

Malcolm-Thornton added, “Like Erika [Bennett], I would get that vice president or senior vice president role but not the top C-level job because they always felt more comfortable with a white man in that seat, in my experience.”

“I think part of the pay gap discussion has to be about Black women being able to show up fully and completely, but as themselves and that that is enough to garner the salary that we deserve based on what we bring to the table,” Bennett added.

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