Black women are among the most educated groups in the nation. Yet, this crucial segment of the American workforce is paid just a fraction of the earnings their white male counterparts receive for equivalent employment. In a world affected by the coronavirus, the disparate treatment of Black women, as it pertains to salary and the systemic obstacles in the way of obtaining a suitable job, has created an even greater divide with perceived long-lasting effects.
“COVID-19 is more than just a public health crisis. It is an economic crisis, a caregiving crisis,” says Kalisha Dessources Figures, Special Assistant to the President for Gender Policy. “Black Women’s Equal Pay Day isn’t just about real-time wage gaps, it’s about the full picture of economic security for Black women and their families.”
Figures’ role in the Biden administration includes helping to address the fact that Black women lose thousands of dollars each year and hundreds of thousands over a lifetime due to the gender and racial wage gap. As it stands, Black women must work 19 months to obtain what a white man makes annually, which equals out to 63 cents for each dollar. Oftentimes these underpaid workers carry the title of breadwinner and caregiver for their families, compounding the wealth gap between Black and white households. To address women’s economic security, Figures’ says the White House is taking “a whole of government” approach that includes making transformative investments in robust work-family policies.
“Especially in light of this pandemic, it’s important that we look at all of these issues— the full picture of Black women in the workforce, of Black women’s economic security —and invest in each of those pieces, leveraging a whole of government approach to address each one,” Figures says.
In April, following the passing of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House of Representatives, President Biden said in a statement that “closing the gender pay gap is more than just an economic imperative—it’s a moral imperative as well.” In late June, President Biden signed an executive order advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce. Though both measures signal a step toward progress by addressing long-standing inequities in the workplace including loopholes that have discouraged pay transparency in the past, there is more work to be done, and history has shown how slow movement on this matter happens.
Advancing the need for pay equity will require both parties to come together and work toward closing a gap that has dictated education, generational wealth and advancement for communities of people for far too long. The White House is confident that will happen.
“There is nothing partisan about making sure that Black women have a fair shot to get ahead, and to be paid fairly, in the workplace,” Figures asserts.