Today is "Black Women Equal Pay Day" and I can't help but reflect on an amazing panel I was honored to be a part of yesterday with Google's Women's resource group. The conversation was focused on supporting Black women via story sharing but I found it to be incredibly impactful because it was one of the few moments when Black women were the focal point with the intent to find ways to better understand and support our collective experiences... IN CORPORATE AMERICA! Wow!
One thing our 60 min convo did not mentioned was the gap in pay. Given the nature of this day, I thought it would be great to take a moment to talk about the reality of our pay gap.
Before I do, I want to note that there is a huge pay gap issue in our country. Some recognize it and some do not. This article is not intended to be negated with the "work hard and you'll get paid more" debate. Systemic racism and bias is infectious and has always been a roadblock for minorities in every sense of the word - including salaries.
I remember the first time I negotiated my salary and the intense fear that took over. I realized in that moment that I never sat down to assess my worth. In my humble upbringing, I was exposed to hard working folks that would take what they could get and be content with that. So imagine what sort of unlearning I had to go through to find the courage to walk into negotiations. The reality is, a lot of black women were raised that way. We are told to pursue our degrees (in which 64% of us do) so the world can open up for us but sometimes it ends there. We don't always think about the loans that pile up once we complete school and the fact we will have to pay them back for the next 20-30 years.
Walking into a job and getting a decent salary is great until the bills come in. Then we have to begin choosing between home necessities (gas/food), bill payments, and lifestyle sustainability. When we start to get frustrated and dig into this contradicting "I have a job yet I'm still broke" phenomenon is when we realize that we are underpaid. So much so that we actually only make .62 cents on the dollar compared to white men.
On top of that, Black women are often times the head of the household and have dependents that rely on our income and find ourselves distributing limited funds more frequently to support loved ones.
It's frustrating to sift through. So in honor of this day, I've dropped a few tips below that I've gathered from a few sources on how Black women can combat this pay gap issue and how allies can help support us in our careers.
To my sisters, here's a few tips:
Research, girl! Talk to folks in the role you have/want and find out what the average pay is for that role. Talk to other black women as well to get an idea of how they have negotiated their salaries. Soak up all the information you can so you can go into that convo with your head high!
Keep track of your accomplishments - get as much as you can in writing so when promo season comes around you're ready! As great as it is to receive verbal praise and recognition, we have to protect ourselves and make sure there is a write up somewhere available and easy to reference.
Don't be afraid to be honest about your needs! You have to be able to sustain yourself and take care of your responsibilities. So if your needs are not met, do not be afraid to walk away if the salary doesn't match!
Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate! Most times, the first offer is significantly lower than what the company can offer so don't get too excited! Be patient and strategic.
To my allies, remember that allyship shows up in many ways. Here's a few tips on how you can show your support:
Connections: The power of introductions! Know someone who can provide resources and/or exposure to opportunities that can advance her career? Introduce her.
Invitations: So much can happen if we are offered a seat at the table. If there is a project, stretch assignment, or learning opportunity available invite her to participate or lead it. Give her an opportunity to let her skills and personality shine.
Advocate: Advocate for her when she is and is not in the room. If promo season is approaching, write out your advocacy/feedback so that she can carry it into those conversations and make use of it when negotiating a raise/promo!
These are just a few thoughts that I hope can stick. If you want to learn more check out the resources below.
A few digestible articles: