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Black women’s Equal Pay Day underscores the widening wage gap

WASHINGTON — While Equal Pay Day 2022 came more than a week earlier than last year, suggesting that women might be making gains, that suggestion is false. The wage gap for women of color has actually widened. Black women will need to work until September 21 to catch up to white men. Last year, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was more than a month earlier (August 3, 2021) — further proof that systemic racism is costing Black women more money.

“Black women workers are essential to our economy — and provide essential services — the COVID-19 shutdown proved that,” said In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO Marcela Howell. “Yet, Black women’s wages lag behind both white men’s and white women’s.”

One year into the pandemic, 47% of Black women had to report to work despite having a good reason to stay home and 51% had trouble paying for essentials like food, housing and child care. It has been widely reported that Black women are still playing catch up with significantly higher unemployment rates.

While many advocates focus on equal pay as a key solution to the wage gap and promote policies to address paycheck fairness or increase the minimum wage, Howell says that equal pay is just one component of a multi-dimensional, ongoing fight for empowerment and self-determination. She and other Reproductive Justice advocates are calling for comprehensive policy reforms to address the systemic oppression that drives Black women’s wages down.

“Yes, we need pay equity,” said Howell. “We also need universal childcare, paid leave and a universal basic income program to close the wage gap.”

Howell notes that bills that would address workplace fairness and provide Black women workers support languish in Congress. She says that the only way to achieve success is to change the faces of those in power.

“If you want to close the wage gap, get out and vote for elected officials who will support legislation to do it,” said Howell. “It takes Reproductive Justice voters to elect Reproductive Justice policymakers at the local, state and federal levels to make Reproductive Justice a reality.”

In Our Own Voice’s voter engagement and education campaign, I AM A VOTER is a long-term strategy designed to educate and mobilize Black women voters to take their lives and freedoms in their own hands and elect candidates who reflect their values.


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