Let Black Women Live and Earn
Today marks 2021 Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. August 3, 2021 marks the day a Black woman finally earns what a white, non-Hispanic man earned in 2020—some 215 days into the new year. This is no cause for celebration. Black women face obstacles throughout the lifespan that lead to this economic inequity. Today we must recognize, and act on, the ways in which we can close this wage gap. Two ways we can do this: create equal educational opportunity and create transparency in pay practices.
Recently Legal Momentum provided a public comment to the U.S. Department of Education’s request for comment regarding non-discriminatory school disciplinary practices. As our comment detailed, Black girls are disproportionately disciplined as compared to white girls—facing exponentially higher rates of out of school suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement—based on implicit and explicit gender- and race-based biases. The result is that Black girls are being pushed out of school. Among other derivative harms, deprivation of educational opportunities equates to a lifetime of earnings loss. We must root out the disciplinary policies and practices built upon biases, such as school policies barring certain hairstyles, and which push out students rather than support their development, such as zero tolerance disciplinary practices.
As Black girls and women enter the workforce, our existing culture of pay secrecy thwarts pay equity. Pay secrecy creates opportunities for employers to inject gender and racial bias into the salary setting process, which research shows they do, with employers often crediting white men for being more competent and reliable. Among those disproportionately disadvantaged by pay secrecy are Black women, who historically have earned less due to discriminatory practices, have less leverage, and are thus in a weaker position to negotiate higher salaries. Pay secrecy has long undermined the efficacy of our existing equal pay laws, preventing women, people of color, enforcement agencies, and other vulnerable groups from unearthing unlawful pay disparities.
Salary disclosure laws, such as those passed in California, Colorado, Maryland and Washington State and pending in New York, require employers to disclose compensation in job postings. This prevents employers from setting compensation behind closed doors and based on subjective assessments which often rely on implicit gender- and race-based biases and, instead, to base salary ranges based on objective job responsibilities and competencies. Pay transparency is key to closing the wage gap.
Today Legal Momentum reflects on the obstacles which are still erected in the way of pay equity. We continue to advocate for equal educational opportunities by encouraging robust enforcement of our civil rights laws so that Black girls can enter the workforce competitively and we continue to envision and advocate for innovative policies which close the wage gap that has persisted for far too long.
The SYMS | Legal Momentum Helpline remains available at NO COST to provide legal information and referrals on issues related to sex discrimination in the workplace, home, school and the courts.
COVID-19 Resources. In this challenging time, our legal team developed a no-cost guide to Legal Rights and Economic Resources for Workers Impacted by COVID-19, also available in Spanish and Chinese.
Protecting women’s and girls’ rights begins with the law. Thank you for your ongoing support - you make our work possible! Stay safe and stay healthy.
Legal Momentum Legal Team