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August 22 2019

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Promotes Victimization Instead of Empowerment

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, a ceremonial (i.e. fake) holiday to highlight the number of days into 2019 that black women had to work to earn as much as white men did in 2018.

Like Equal Pay Day for all women back in April, this is another day for the left to claim that black women everywhere face a discrimination double whammy in the workplace.

The intention of this holiday is to brainwash black women into believing that pervasive racial and gender discrimination are holding them back. Leftists then peddle liberal policies that aim to close wage gaps by interjecting government dictates and bureaucrats into the relationship between employers and their employees. The unintended consequences will be less flexibility for women and fewer opportunities.

Let’s just explain the pay gap and, spoiler alert, it’s not gender discrimination.

Black women --like all women-- make choices about career and work that impact their pay. Left-leaning activist groups and lawmakers won’t admit this truth though.

We know that the 77-cent or 80-cent wage gap between what men and women earn — calculated by comparing the average female wage with the average male wage -- doesn’t reflect important other factors: hours worked, time out of the workforce, education, vocation, industry, seniority, dangerousness of job, and field of study. Women work fewer hours each day and full-time less often. (Read about What Drives the Pay Gap here)

When we control for these factors, the pay gap shrinks to a few cents.

Black women face a bigger reported pay gap of 61 cents and Hispanic women 53 cents on the dollar that white men earn. Ironically, if we did an apples-to-apples comparison of black women with black men or Hispanic women to Hispanic men, we would see much smaller earnings gaps of 89 percent and 86 percent, respectively.

Controlling for other factors and that gap would likely shrink too.

Two factors have a significant impact on black women’s earnings overall: vocation and education.

Black women are heavily employed in low-pay and low-skill jobs in hospitality and retail for example.

Black women are also drawn to so-called “caring” careers in healthcare, human services, and education. Black women are overrepresented in jobs such as personal and home care aides, nursing, and home health aides. From teachers to social workers, these careers offer individuals the chance to care for the needs -- educational, physical, and emotional -- of their families and communities. However, these jobs pay less than those in the sciences, technology or financial industries. 

Black women are increasingly earning college and advanced degrees to expand their career opportunities, but their earnings potential may be limited by what fields they study. According to a 2016 Georgetown study, black students obtained 20 percent of degrees in human services and community organizing and 19 percent in social work, but the median salary of these industries is about $40,000. Meanwhile, just 7 percent of blacks have STEM-related bachelor’s degrees, which command a median annual salary of $84,000. 

If a young woman wants to pursue a career as a social worker, by all means, she should. It’s noble to want to help vulnerable children and families. However, she should understand the tradeoff she is making in terms of pay.

This is the kind of information that empowers women to make choices about what to study, whether to pursue a degree, what industry to get into, and what career-track to pursue.

We will probably hear a lot about how racist workplaces are for black women as demonstrated by the pay gap. Black women should be skeptical though.

Although race and gender discrimination does exist, it is not pervasive. The choices that we make shape our earnings and opportunities far more than personal prejudices and bigotry.

Let’s educate young black women and respect the choices that they make. 

Let’s also give them the tools and encouragement they need to get paid what they're worth. They need to know how to negotiate salaries and benefits, how to investigate pay ranges, how to build networks, and how to grow in their desired fields.

Where government policies erect barriers to opportunity such as occupational licenses or rising minimum wages, we have a chance to reform those policies for the better.

What we do not need though is to keep women in a state of victimization and that’s what these fake Equal Pay Day holidays do.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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