Black Women's Equal Pay Day: 3 Women On How They Learned They Were Underpaid

Illustration by Abbie Winters.
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on July 31, 2017. Factual data in the introduction has been updated to reflect current numbers.]
Earlier this year, April 10 [Editor's note: April 2 in 2019] 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 beginning of April for women to make as much money as men did.) Today, eight months into the current year, marks the day that the average Black woman has achieved the same.
Black women make just 63 cents [Editor's note: 61 cents in 2019] to the dollar compared to the earnings of white men, which is why it takes them an extra 200 days of work to catch up. As the American Association of University Women (AAUW) explains, "More than 60% of Black women are in the workforce, making them one of the two racial/ethnic groups of women with the highest labor force participation rate, but their earnings lag behind most women’s and men’s earnings in the U.S."
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.

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