How many times have you heard that figure come out of the mouth of a white female proponent of equal pay?
We’re guessing none. But we know you’ve heard the number 79, the figure that’s become the arc of the equal pay movement and the one that has absolutely nothing to do with us. See, while white women earned 79 cents to every white male dollar, Black women only earn 63. Sixty-three!
Yesterday, recognized as Black Woman’s Equal Pay Day, came and went with little to no fuss, save for a few editorials online. There was no hashtag, no huge PR push. We even missed the memo. Women like Patricia Arquette make it a point to put their struggle on the national stage at events like the Oscars, but on a day that was all about us, our allies were hard to find.
Maybe a different figure will make more people care about the plight. A number like $877,480, which is the average of how much the pay gap costs a Black woman over the course of a 40-year career. One million certainly leaves a bigger impression on the mind than 60-something cents, and that’s actually how much the wage gap will cost Black women in six states (Louisiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and DC).
As Leslie Watson Malachi pointed out in an editorial on NBC news: “The 2016 election is a pivotal moment for addressing this very real, not-even-close pay issue head-on.”
“African American women are being shortchanged with each paycheck—which, in turn, can affect any number of other parts of our lives, from health care to education to housing.
With the elimination of the wage gap, for example, the National Partnership for Women and Families in 2015 reported it would mean ‘169 more weeks of food for her family (3.2 years’ worth); 15 more months of mortgage and utilities payments; more than 23 more months of rent; 10,753 additional gallons of gas.'”
Malachi closed her piece by harping on the importance of Black women voting in this election “So that those who brush pay equity off as a non-issue or who think women are the problem will hear directly from the millions of Americans who support correcting this very real present day inequity what it means to walk in our heels.” And if the lack of interest in Black Women’s Equal Pay Day yesterday showed you nothing else, it’s obvious if we don’t make our pay an issue, no one else will.