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The Pay Gap

The Pay Gap

From my time as an undergraduate sociology major, I remember having to learn the difference between equality and equity. Equality and equity are two common words that are getting their fair-share of use due to the increasing march toward social justice for all. With that, has come the interchangeable and incorrect use of the words. Equality is the state of being equal. Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. I want to include those definitions because it is important when discussing social justice toward equality, we must remember that equity is the road, path, boat, vehicle, or what-have-you, to get to equality. We will not have equality without acknowledging and achieving equity. Remember, if equality is what we seek, equity is what we must start with.

March 24th was Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day marks a day within Women’s History Month to acknowledge the gender pay disparity. This past Wednesday brought women together from various occupations together to advocate for equal pay. While the gender pay gap is quite well-known, the racial-gender pay gap is often left out of the conversation. Often when these conversations are had, they lack the depth to focus on not only the individual, but those around the individual who are also affected by its consequences. The effects of the intersectional discrimination of racism and sexism on Black women are compounded and it perpetuates the racial-gender pay gap. This then leads to the lack of access to educational opportunities, career advancement, and wealth attainment for Black women.

If equal pay is what we are aiming at addressing, we have to understand the racial wealth gap. The wealth gap is the disparity of total assets among comparable groups and it explains why Black women’s earnings are so far behind those of both White men and White women. The racial wealth gap can be traced to historic injustices (salvery, segregation, red-lining, lack of access to federal programs, and etc.,) that perpetuated institutional and systemic racism and discrmination. Thus, the disparity in wealth spans generations and the effects perpetuates unequal pay and decreasing the amount of resources Black families can devote to education and career advancement.

Education is often referred to as the great equalizer because it was thought that education could mediate pay and wealth gaps alone. However, recent research has found that the median White adult who dropped out of high school 70 percent more wealth than the median Black adult with some college education. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of Black women who are full-time minimum wage workers is higher than that of any other racial group. Black women are also less likely to work in higher paying STEM job-fields. Black women make up just 1 percent of the high-paying engineering workforce and 3 percent of computing.

When we pull away from the individual Black women who are affected by the racial and gender wealth and pay gaps, we must see her family. 80 percent of Black mothers are the sole, co-breadwinners or primary breadwinners of their households. An equitable and equal wage can be the difference between struggling and sustainability. An equitable and equal wage can mean the start of generational wealth for many Black women and their families. An equitable and equal wage can begin to mediate some of the historical injustice that past generations have experienced. An equitable and equal wage means that Black children can truly grow up and not just dream of achieving, but achieve.

Yasmine Shepard

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