African-American women on average need to work for one year and seven months to earn the same yearly wage as white men and July 31 serves as a reminder of that stark piece of trivia. Known as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, it’s the date into 2017 that African-American women would need to work to earn as much as their white male counterparts if they both started working on Jan. 1, 2016.
Black women are at the intersection of a variety of macro-economic trends that contribute to this pay gap, which amounts to about 67 cents per dollar on average, even when controlling for factors like education and years of experience.
As tennis star Serena Williams, who has also spoken out about her own struggles with pay discrimination, put it in an op-ed in Fortune on Monday: “The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles. For every black woman that rises through the ranks to a position of power, there are too many others who are still struggling.”
That’s because for one, the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown over the past several years and African-American women make up only a small share of top wage earners, said Valerie Wilson, the director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank focused on labor issues.
In addition, persistent racial and gender pay gaps also plague African-American women. That all means that at the current rate it will take until 2124 for black women to earn the same on average as white men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “African-American women get hit three times,” Wilson said, referring to the triple burden of race, gender and general income inequality that saps black women’s earning power.