Black Women Being Affected By Equal Pay

By Arshiya Malik

If you are a woman in business, you won’t be surprised to learn that gender stereotyping prevents many female employees from advancing to C-suite levels. What you might not know is that the bias comes from men and women alike.

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Research published in the Academy of Management Journal supports the notion that women have a more difficult time getting recognized as potential leaders, and PayScale’s Inside the Gender Pay Gap report attributed that to the unconscious bias of both men and women. According to the PayScale report, even women who consider themselves feminists are just as apt to see other women as the “weaker sex.”

At this point, women entrepreneurs and high achievers have two choices: mutely accept the status quo or move toward a philosophy of authenticity to shatter ceilings and bring down barriers. I strongly recommend the latter.

Although the situation is grim, there are several things that you can do to help improve matters.

  • Raising your own awareness is a start, but make sure you’re also sharing this information. Talk to others in your workplace, in particular, hiring managers and leadership, to ensure they know the facts. Encourage them to audit their pay practices for equality and fairness. Remind them that being a fair and equitable employer is good not just for ethical reasons, but also for their bottom line.
  • Decline to share salary history with potential employers (which, by the way, is currently illegal for employers to demand in many states). Ask for what you deserve and negotiate from there. The gender pay gap means that you almost definitely were paid less than you should have been at your previous job. That number is not a good indicator of what you should earn in the next one. Here are some ideas for how you can respond when faced with this question.
  • Use the tools that exist when an incident of harassment or discrimination occurs at work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established in 1965 and serves as the main agency investigating for workplace-related discrimination complaints. Make sure to file any incidents through this agency. All complaints result in subsequent time-consuming and potentially costly activities for the company while the EEOC carries out its investigation.
  • If you are a white woman, be sure to acknowledge and use your privilege to ensure the voices of black women are being heard. Elevate them, make room for them, and take time to sit back and listen. Importantly, be open to feedback. A recent article by Robin DiAngelo on her experiences with white people handling diversity trainings is illuminating in this regard and worth a read.
  • Consider organizations such as the AAUW (the American Association of University Women), that work to advance gender equity. They approach this issue through a variety of ways and can be a good resource for dealing with race and gender biases in the workplace.

Progress in Entrepreneurship

While the pay gap remains, it’s worth mentioning some exciting progress being made by Black women entrepreneurs. The growth rate of business ownership by Black women is higher than any other group in the country. From 2000 to 2012, the number of businesses owned by Black women increased by 179%. This is more than triple the 52% growth in business ownership of women as a whole.

Additionally, this year 34 Black women have raised over $1 million from VC funding, three times the amount in 2016. And earlier this year Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital announced the “IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund” to raise $36 million specifically for investing in Black female founders. Supporting and investing in Black women is quite obviously a good thing. And all individuals, regardless of race or gender, can be part of spurring the change that is needed to eliminate the pay gap and increase equity for all.

Finally, check out Aleria’s list of awesome Black women you should know and update your Twitter feed. The list is always growing so if you know of someone, send in a nomination!


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