Study: Black women make 21% less than white women, but few realize it
- Black women are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women, according to research by LeanIn.org, Survey Monkey, and the National Urban League. A third of Americans aren't aware of the pay disparity between black women and white men, and half of Americans don't know about the gap between black women and white women.
- When compared to white, Asian, and Latina women, black women also receive less support from managers and are promoted more slowly, LeanIn.Org & McKinsey & Company's annual Women in the Workplace study found. Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org, said in a statement that the disparity in black women's wages amounts to $800,000 over the course of a career in lost earnings.
- Survey findings also showed that 40% of people aware of the pay gap still underestimate its magnitude. About half of white men believe obstacles for black women have been eradicated, but only 14% of black women hold the same view. Racism, sexism or both do not affect today's workplace according to 70% of people who are not black, yet 64% of black women say they've faced those forces at some point during their careers, the survey found.
If the majority of black women say they face discrimination at work, the message to employers is clear: they may face it in your workplace. Other studies have shown similar results on the pay and promotion disparities between black women and other employees. These disparities have economic consequences for black women and their families, but they also jeopardize their physical and mental well-being, according to a report on the undermining of women of color in the workplace.
The discrepancy between the perceptions held by black women and those of others regarding equal pay and discrimination may prompt employers to evaluate how their own workplaces function. As organizations consider how pay transparency and diversity, for example, factors into company culture, it might be worth recalling that organizations in which discrimination, raced-based and otherwise, is tolerated or ignored could face serious pressure from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has doubled down on fighting discrimination of all types. Dell EMC paid $2.9 million to settle a race- and gender-based pay discrimination case. And Car Wash Headquarters, doing business as Mister Car Wash and Mister Hotshine, has a $225,000 bill for failing to promote black employees to supervisor and management positions.
As the courts continue to penalize discriminatory businesses, HR professionals may want to take note. Leaders can review their organizations' pay and promotion practices and flag any disparities when comparing black women's wages and career advancement opportunities to others' in comparable positions. Companies like Salesforce, Citigroup, Starbucks and Adobe are already acting on ridding their workplaces of race- and gender-based pay inequality through data analysis and direct action, setting an example for other employers to do the same.