African-American Women's Equal Pay Day highlights wage gap

By:  Renee Hickman, Ann Marion, & Mylanda Stubblefield
Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA — Kimberly Perry, owner of Ms. Kim’s Fish & Chicken Shack, creates her own salary — but it wasn't always that way. When she worked for a factory, she was never sure whether she was paid the same as her white peers.

It wasn't something that bothered Perry then; her goal was to make enough to leave. "It's better to be self-owned," she said. "You're not working for someone — you're working for yourself."

However, now that Perry does payroll, she makes sure to take a fair approach when it comes to wage equality.

“With my employees, they all start out (at) the same amount," Perry said. "When they come in, they’re all equal. It doesn’t matter if they’re white or black.”

Pay equity isn't the norm in this country, however. On average, black women have to work 600 days to earn what white men make in 365 days.

Tuesday, Aug. 23, is recognized by some as African-American Women’s Equal Pay Day, a day on which the disparity in pay for African-American women is recognized.

To earn the average one-year salary of a white man, an African-American woman works a full calendar year plus 235 days,according to a blog post by Jasmine Tucker, research director of the National Women’s Law Center.

According to the women's law center, this gap means an African-American woman in certain states would earn more than $1 million less over a 40-year career.

On Tuesday, people took to Twitter with the hashtag #BlackWomensEqualPay to make statements of support for women of color, express their views on the state of income inequality and shed light on the pay gap.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill joined the trending hashtag, tweeting:

“Claire: #StudentDebt doesn’t affect everyone equally—#paygap means it especially hurts #WOC. #BlackWomensEqualPay.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Twitter account also shared an article about the wage gap, along with the comment: "The gender wage gap is even wider for women of color. It’s time to ensure equal pay.”

In 6 states, African American women would lose more than $1 million over a 40-year career due to the wage gap.#BlackWomensEqualPay

Nationally, women were paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men in 2014, according to data from the National Partnership for Women and Families. African-American women were paid 60 cents on every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, on average.

Although attempts have been made to close pay gaps with legislation, progress has been slow — between 1967 and 2014, it had narrowed by only 17 cents for African-American women, according to a report by the women's law center.

Part of the problem is that much of the legislation has put the responsibility on employees to prove that they are being discriminated against, which in many cases is very difficult to prove, said Sonja Erickson, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Public Policy at the MU Truman School of Public Affairs.

Erickson said part of the solution could lie in employers making their pay structures more transparent.

"Many people don't have the information they need to ask for more money," she said.

"It is important to understand that it’s a complex problem with a lot of root causes that can be solved but need to be understood."