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Black women pay gap a shock to many, new research finds

DISPROPORTINATE: Black women at work (Photo credit: Big Stock)

AUGUST 7 will be Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which marks how far they have come in order to catch up to what white men earned in 2017 alone.

According to a new report, on average, black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women. To raise awareness of the pay gap and its negative effect on black women and families, LeanIn.Org is launching #38PercentCounts, the second of three public awareness efforts this year rooted in the idea that equal pay matters.

New research conducted by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey in partnership with the National Urban League shows that there remains a striking lack of awareness around the pay gap black women face.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org said: "The pay gap facing black women is an urgent problem. It has huge financial implications for millions of families. And it signals something deeply wrong in our economy.

"We need to address the gender and racial inequalities that give rise to this imbalance—and create workplaces where everyone's labor is valued, everyone is treated with respect, and everyone has an equal shot at success."

For black women, being paid less is just the tip of the iceberg. Compared to white women, Asian women and Latinas, black women receive less support from managers and are promoted more slowly. These unique challenges faced by Black women—and women of color more broadly—are examined in LeanIn.Org & McKinsey & Company's annual Women in the Workplace study.

"Black women deal with double discrimination every day—they face biases for being women and biases for being people of colour. One place where we see that double effect is in the 38 percent pay gap," said Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org. "That translates to more than $800,000 lost over the course of a career with staggering real-world implications. We're grateful to our partners and the Lean In community for working to raise awareness of the pay gap Black women face."

LeanIn.Org, SurveyMonkey, and the National Urban League's recent survey findings also show that even when people know there's a pay gap, it's bigger than they realise. Forty percent of people who are aware of the pay gap black women face underestimate its size. Moreover, the data show significant differences in how black women see the workplace compared to everyone else.

About half of white men think obstacles to advancement for black women are gone but only 14 percent of black women agree. Moreover, nearly 70 percent of people who are not black think that racism, sexism or both are uncommon in their company—yet 64 percent of black women say they've experienced discrimination at work.

"The lack of awareness about the pay gap at their own workplace, particularly among hiring managers –two-thirds of whom say there is none– is an insight we hope drives organizations to take action," said Sarah Cho, Director of Research at SurveyMonkey.

"Conducting a pay equity study is a powerful way to bring this topic into clear terms, but we also hope these data spark curiosity within companies to measure perceptions about inclusion, so they can build broader programs and policies to help drive meaningful change that lasts."

"Our plan is that bringing awareness to this injustice will lead to concrete action," said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. "Not only would fair pay for black women drastically narrow the racial economic gap, but it would go a long way toward stabilizing our national economy. Because black women disproportionately are heads of households, fair pay would create a ripple effect that could lift entire communities."

The pay gap disparity is an issue that plagues black women globally. A new study has found that ethnic minority workers in London’s public sector face a pay gap of up to 37%, and research from the Fawcett Society found black African women have a 19.6 per cent full-time pay gap with white British men.

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