3 Black Women On How They Learned They Were Underpaid

Illustration by Abbie Winters.
Earlier this year, May 31st was anointed Equal Pay Day for Women, marking the symbolic day that women as a whole reached pay equity with white men. (In other words, it took until the end of May for women to make as much money as men did in 2016.) Today, seven months into the current year, marks the day that the average Black woman has achieved the same.
As the American Association of University Women (AAUW) explains, "Black women make only 63 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make. That’s an even larger disparity than the national ratio for all women compared to all men — 80 percent — despite black women participating in the workforce at much higher rates than most other women, and also at higher rates than black men."
The reasons for why are varied: From a lack of enforcement with regard to anti-discrimination laws, as well as a lack of affordable care for children, elders, and the disabled, punitive measures against unionization efforts, and a paucity of affordable housing have impacted all Americans, especially Black women.
What's more is that attaining education can sometimes make things worse for them: Not only do women accrue more student debt than men do on average, but because Black and Hispanic women are more impacted by pay gaps within gender lines, they make less money to pay off student debt.
The gender pay gap is often discussed in a theoretical way that lumps the experiences of all women into one box. Now, people across the country are complicating that narrative. Here, three Black women tell Refinery29 how they learned they were underpaid, how it impacted them, what they did about it, and what they learned from the experience.