By Micha Green,
AFRO D.C. and Digital Content Editor

First called “National Pay Inequity Awareness Day,” sponsored by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996, the United States has officially recognized “Equal Pay Day,” as the day women have to work into the next year to equal what male counterparts earn annually.  As 2022 marks the first year Equal Pay Day has fallen as early as March 15, some people are celebrating the strides, while others are emphasizing the realities that Black women still trail behind today’s date in true pay equity.

“This year, Equal Pay Day falls on March 15, the earliest we have ever marked the occasion.  The earlier that Equal Pay Day arrives, the closer our Nation has come to achieving pay fairness,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.  “But while we should celebrate the progress we have made, as I have said in the past, we should not be satisfied until Equal Pay Day is no longer necessary at all.”

“In 2020, the average woman working full-time, year-round, for wages or a salary earned 83 cents for every dollar paid to their average male counterpart.  And once again, the disparities are even greater for Black, Native American, Latina, and certain subpopulations of Asian women when compared to White men.  Disabled women also continue to experience significant disparities and make 80 cents for every dollar compared to men with disabilities.  The pay gap reflects outright discrimination as well as barriers that women face in accessing good-paying jobs and meeting caregiving responsibilities — including a lack of affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, and fair and predictable scheduling — which often prevent women from joining and staying in the workforce,” the President explained.

According to In Our Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Black women will have to work until Sept. 21, more than a month and a half later than last year’s date (August 3, 2021), to catch up with what their White male counterparts earn.

“The wage gap proves that Black women have been disparately impacted by the pandemic and inflation,” said In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO Marcela Howell. “Black women workers shouldered the burden of the pandemic; Black women were more likely to be essential workers, risking their lives while many others worked from the safety of their homes, yet Black women’s wages suffered too.”

President of the National Partnership for Women and Families Jocelyn C. Frye noted that institutional traditions within corporations and the hiring process also contribute to the wage gap as well.

“For years, salary histories have been used when making hiring decisions and determining pay rates. This is yet another practice that has worked to keep women connected to their prior, often lower wages. As a result, even when women seek out new employment, a discriminatory prior wage can effectively follow them from job to job because their employer limits how much they can earn based on their prior salary. And that limits their earning potential over the course of their careers,” said Frye.

“It is critical to eliminate these types of practices to ensure that women of color, and indeed all women, earn fair wages for the jobs that they perform,” the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families added.

Women leaders are sick and tired of the need for an Equal Pay Day and want to address the larger systemic issues in the United States directly tied to challenges affecting Black women as a result of pay inequities and historic racism.

In Our Own Voices: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is advocating for Congress to pass the “Build Back Better Act,” which would assist in many challenges that exacerbate the already existing inequities in pay experienced by Black women, such as: increasing access to affordable housing, lowering childcare costs, reducing health care costs and promoting food security for children.

“There’s nothing equal about Equal Pay Day,” said Howell. “It’s past time for Congress to take action to level the playing field for Black women at work,” Howell emphasized. 

“As we acknowledge Equal Pay Day, all of us — advocates, women workers, and their families — are well aware that this is not a celebration, but instead it is a call to action for our leaders from the White House to the workplace to ensure the necessary policies and practices are put in place for women to succeed at work,” said Frye.  

Through the 2022 Black Business Matters Expo: Women Who Win, on March 24, the AFRO will be discussing topics related to demanding equitable pay as Black women.

“It’s somewhat disheartening that we’re still talking about equal pay in 2022.  But the fact still remains that there’s a pay gap, so as long as there’s a pay gap, we’ll continue to advocate for equal pay for women and for African Americans,” AFRO Publisher the Rev. Dr. Frances Toni Draper said.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor