On Black Women's Equal Pay Day We Asked Our Community What it Will Take to Get it Right

by Lindsay Valdez

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“We can start by bringing awareness and recognizing that this is a problem and it is a fact.”

Five women share with us their first jobs, their salaries & what it will take for black women to attain equal pay in the workforce.

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and we’ve asked five former BlogHer conference speakers some questions about their experiences in the workforce. EqualPayToday.org says that 80% of black mothers are the primary breadwinners of their households, yet they’re paid only $.61 for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Today we want to recognize the mission of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and join in the fight to see Black women paid equal to their peers. But first, several more devastating facts:

  • On average, Black women in the U.S. are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women (source)

  • Over the course of a 40-year career, the typical lost wages of Black women near one million dollars (source)

  • 1 in 3 Americans are unaware of the pay gap between Black women and white men (source)

Adrienne Lawrence:

Website: AdrienneJLawrence.com

IG: @adriennelawrence

What was your first real job & Starting Salary?

While still in grad school and on my way to law school in 2003, I was a paralegal specialist at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York. If I recall correctly, my starting salary was around $48,000. (The salary was set by government schedules.)

What actions can we take before 2020 to ensure equal pay for black women?

To ensure equal pay for black women, we need to have open conversations about our experiences and be transparent about our salaries with individuals at our workplaces. Oftentimes, black women are unaware that they’re underpaid in relation to their peers. Seeking the information necessary to hold employers accountable is essential to closing the pay gap.

Elle Simone:

About Chef Elle

IG: @shechefinc_elle

What was your first real job?

My first real job was as a waitress at a Michigan-based restaurant called Olga’s Kitchen. I worked at one of the franchises in one of the larger malls in the city called Fairlane, in Dearborn, Michigan. More real than that, I was a social worker at an agency called Starfish Family Services. I ran a program for youth who were aging out of the system. My job was to coordinate a program that taught them independent living skills.

What was your starting salary?

My salary was $29,000 a year. I think that salaries should be public information and before 2020, corps & orgs can stop treating “salary” as a taboo topic and be fully transparent. As should we! My salary is $71,000. See! Just like that.

Dayna Bolden:

Blog: DaynaBolden.com

IG: @daynabolden

What was your first real job?

My first real job was a sales coordinator.

What was your starting salary?

My salary was $40,000 a year.

What actions can we take before 2020 to ensure equal pay for black women?

We can start by bringing awareness and recognizing that this is a problem and it is a fact. Especially for men and people of non color, they need to understand their privilege and accept that their buy in is necessary for change. We can make a difference by standing up for what is right, speaking up in the work place and fighting hard for equality.

Chastity Garner Valentine:

Blog: GarnerStyle

IG: @garnerstyle

What was your first real job?

A Project Manager for a nonprofit.

What was your starting salary?

My salary was $39,000 a year.

What actions can we take before 2020 to ensure equal pay for black women?

Encourage employers to have transparency when it comes to salaries. Keeping salaries secret allows these gaps to keep broadening.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson:

Website: KendraBracken-Ferguson.com

IG: @kendrabrackenferguson

What was your first real job?

It was at Fleishman-Hillard as an Assistant Account Executive.

What was your starting salary?

My salary was $35,000 a year.

What actions can we take before 2020 to ensure equal pay for black women?

Education: speak out and continue to educate and share knowledge to black women so they know how to negotiate and understand what an equal salary is 

Encouragement: Ask peers what they are making to ensure there is consistency in the role; we should be comfortable discussing salaries. 

Empower: Lean into organizations that are supporting women in these difficult conversations and empowering them to speak up like Take The Lead, Take Action Now, National Committee on Pay Equity, etc.

Lindsay Valdez1 Comment