Race and Beyond: Why Black Women’s Equal Pay Day Matters

By Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg/Monday, August 22, 2016

black women

A Georgia Department of Labor services specialist helps a woman with a job search at an unemployment office in Atlanta on March 3, 2016.

In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, regular Race and Beyond columnist Sam Fulwood III invited interns Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg to reflect on the intersecting barriers of gender, race, and age in the U.S. workforce.

Tomorrow marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which observes the amount of time it takes the average black woman to earn the same pay that the average white man earns in one calendar year. Because black women earn 60 percent of what their white male counterparts do—a rate much lower than the 79 percent national pay gap for all women—it takes approximately eight additional months for them to reach pay parity with white men. Years of advocacy and progress have resulted in black women working across all fields and reaching high levels of academic achievement, with more than half of all black women between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in college. While black women have made notable professional contributions and become the most educated group in the nation, these advancements have not shown a considerable effect on wage disparities.

Black women’s pay disparity is especially concerning for Millennials—the nation’s most diverse generation ever—who now make up the majority of workers. In May 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, and in April 2016, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. As the youngest Millennials get older, graduate college, and begin looking for jobs, many are faced with two specific barriers: their race and gender. As young black women of the Millennial generation, we shoulder both the struggles and the hopes of our mothers and grandmothers: to be more, build more, and catapult our families to new heights—and new tax brackets. In this legacy, wage equality is our principle concern.

In the current U.S. economy, securing a first job out of college can be difficult, especially for black Americans. Regardless of educational achievement, black American unemployment rates are similar to or higher than those of less-educated white Americans. For example, the unemployment rate for black Americans with bachelor’s degrees or higher is nearly double that of their white counterparts: 4.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Even if we ace the interview and land the job, as black women, we are likely to be underpaid. This is a frightening prospect as we wrap up our undergraduate college careers and look to build a life and a future of financial success. Men make more than women in all but five occupations, and even in those occupations, women of color are paid the lowest on average.

Black women in the workplace face a number of struggles: from stereotypes about women’s roles and harsh critiques of women’s leadership to lack of informational and mentoring networks in many fields. Black women experience unique obstacles that are a result of our compounded identities. Income inequality presents many barriers, as black women may also have to work multiple jobs or longer hours and do not have the time to network and develop the relationships with their coworkers and superiors that are key to career advancement.

Black women who are pregnant face even greater barriers to success in the workplace. While many pregnant women are able to work through pregnancy without difficulty, some women need temporary job modifications in order to continue working safely. A 2008 report noted that women of color and immigrant women are disproportionately likely to work in physically demanding and low-wage jobs and thus are highly likely to need accommodations during pregnancy—similar to those defined in, but not enforced by, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers often refuse to make these adjustments for pregnant women, forcing young black women, like us, to make an impossible choice between keeping our jobs and advancing our careers or protecting our health. Our struggle as young black Millennial women is multifaceted, and making 60 cents to the dollar of our white male counterparts further exacerbates these issues.

The unfortunate reality of the wage gap is that black women are set up to fail; the 40 cents we miss out on accumulates and limits us from fully participating in the U.S. economy. This money could help us pay off student loan debt, buy our first home, or purchase a car. It could help us pay for quality care for our children or put healthy food on the table. On average, black women earn $19,399 less than white men every year, and in 2013 dollars, this would be enough to pay for: feeding a household of four for two years with more than $4,000 to spare, the median cost of rent and utilities for one year, full-time child care for a four-year-old for two years, student loan payments for four years, or more than 300 tanks of gas with $1,000 to spare.

But earning less does not just affect our present, it affects our future. Being underpaid for equal work contributes to an increasing wealth gap and inheritance gap, infringing on prospects of upward mobility for future generations. Black women head 68 percent of black households, and black families have 13 times less wealth than white families, holding only $11,000 in comparison to the $141,900 in wealth white families possess. A lack of wealth and savings also means black families have less to pass down to their children, widening the inheritance gap.

Lack of inheritance coupled with lower earnings for equal work inherently limit the upward social mobility of black women and their children. Half of black children who are born poor remain poor, and 70 percent of black children born in middle-class families end up worse off than their parents.

Under current public policy, total wage equality for all women will not be reached in the United States until 2059; this means that in some states, our grandchildren may be the first to earn an equitable wage at the start of their careers. This inequality is not only of concern for us and our families but also for the nation’s future. Given the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling and globalization of markets, money has become inextricably tied to power.

As we end our undergraduate careers and begin to enter the workforce, it is troubling to note that our starting salaries may be too low, our upward mobility too slow, our purchasing power too weak, and our investments too small to become this nation’s leaders. Economic repression of black women is a strategy for maintaining the status quo—and so far, it is working.

Gabrielle Bozarth is a rising senior at Dartmouth College, studying government and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Naomi Kellogg is a rising junior at Indiana University, studying nonprofit management and education policy. Both served as Progress 2050 interns at the Center for American Progress during the summer of 2016.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

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Print: Chelsea Kiene (women’s issues, TalkPoverty.org, faith)
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Together, we can build a stronger Oregon Coast economy


If opportunity were edible, the Oregon Coast would be capable of feeding many mouths. Up and down the coast from Brookings to Astoria, and particularly in Senate District 5 — the area I represent, stretching from Tillamook to Coos Bay — no one can dispute the stunning natural beauty and healthy living opportunities available to those who choose to make their homes here.

Still, for many reasons, we have struggled to attract many new working aged individuals or — sometimes most painfully — to retain and re-attract our own children to our communities. Lack of economic opportunity, whether real or perceived, is the primary motivating factor in these losses. Instead of pointing fingers, the only way to continue building on coastal economic successes is to continue finding common ground and working together.

When government, private business, the non-profit sector and community leaders are on the same page with the common goal, we can achieve a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren in our region.

I was encouraged by the large turnout at the fifth-annual Oregon Coast Economic Summit recently at The Mill Casino in North Bend. With more than 500 registered participants, it was the best attended so far. It also seems to have sparked several meaningful conversations that could potentially take shape into economic opportunities for the Oregon Coast. It will take a diverse approach with many different players to carve out that bright future we all seek, and we hope that these conversations will spur some of those opportunities.

Natural resources will continue to be a big part of the mix, with Oregon’s world-class timber products, seafood, cranberries, dairy products, tulips and other traditional mainstays. Additionally, new industries are emerging. Craft breweries up and down the coast are thriving and some are gaining international attention for the quality of their products. Capitalizing on the natural beauty of the area, we can garner greater market share in eco-tourism and recreation. We already boast renowned golfing opportunities, but there are other recreational possibilities just waiting to be tapped that can translate into new and thriving local businesses.

Visitors are a key component of our economic growth, not just for the money they spend here, but more for the seed that we can plant with them. When people visit a place and fall in love with it — as most of us who live on the Oregon Coast already have done — they will want to bring their new or existing businesses here to stay. This creates long-term employment for our residents. And when a retiring worker leaves the workforce, they have the freedom and flexibility to choose where they want to live. When they move to our coastal and rural areas for the exceptional quality of life, retirees purchase goods and services in our communities, creating jobs. They have houses built, and they volunteer in the community. We can’t forget those valuable contributions to our economy and our communities.

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As the population continues to grow on the coast, particularly in the retirement segment, new opportunities are developing in the health care industry — often for jobs that are difficult to fill in rural communities around the state. These are great opportunities to make a good living and help people in our communities. We need to continue providing necessary incentives to attract top level health care talent to coastal and rural communities. This takes partnership, as well. Working together, we can address this need. To that end, I will be participating in several Health Care Rural Listening Tour meetings in Coos Bay, Florence and Lincoln City.

How do we retain and re-attract our young rural Oregonians? They are perhaps one of our greatest exports right now. It’s natural for those graduating from high school to want to leave and experience other parts of the state, nation or world. But when we create an enduring fondness through a positive childhood in our coastal communities, eventually many of them will want to come back home to raise their own families. They also will start and grow businesses, create opportunities and bring back an innate sense of passion for their community.

To accomplish these goals we need involvement from all sectors — public, private and non-profit — and have all hands on deck. We can continue rebuilding our coastal economy together through diverse, creative and meaningful partnerships. We can break down barriers to economic success by creating smoother interactions between government and private business, as well as non-profits, so that it is easier to find solutions and opportunities while preserving our outstanding quality of life. By doing this, we can become a shining example.

It’s like the good Sen. Ron Wyden said during the Economic Summit, “America’s rural agenda begins right here on the Oregon Coast.”

It can, and it should. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Sen. Arnie Roblan represents District 5, which includes Coos Bay, Florence, Newport and Tillamook. He is chair of the Senate Committee on Education


August 23, 2016 – African-American Women’s Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day, August 23, for African-American women is a full 236 days into a second year that they have to work to be equal in pay to the dollar paid white, non-Hispanic men  working just one year. In other words, their median pay in 2014 was 64 cents compared to the white man’s dollar, leaving a gap of 36 cents. One reason for the large wage gap is that African-American women experience both gender and race discrimination leading to a lifetime of low pay. Updated information from 2015 Census data shows that the median earnings for African-American women has declined to 60 percent of the white man’s dollar!

Based on the 2014 wage gap, African-American women would lose $877,480 over a 40-year working career compared to white non-Hispanic men and in some states the lifetime loss could be as high as more than $1 million.

Recent studies have calculated that closing the pay gap for all women would cut the poverty rate in half (8.1 percent to 3.9 percent), and for single women, the poverty rate would drop by more than half to 4.6 percent. At the same time, the economy would receive a huge boost of nearly a half-billion dollars from women receiving equal pay! For women of color, equal pay would lift many out of poverty and provide the financial stability needed to raise their families.

The Reality That All Women Experience That Men Don’t Know About

Men—here’s your chance to listen to what women deal with since a too-young age. So: Just. Listen.

Aren’t you being overly sensitive?

Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.


It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.


It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.


So maybe they don’t know.


Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts.

Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register.

They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down.

They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass.

And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth, that we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing.

Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.

We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.


We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.

It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.


We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Year’s Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out.

They’re the ones we may tell your friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.


But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.

It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.

It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.

It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.

It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.

It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.

It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.

It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.

It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.

It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.

It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.

It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.

It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.

It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.


It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this.

They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.

Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.


The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?

So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on a regular basis.

Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.

It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the everyday sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.

Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.

We de-escalate.

We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to, that guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman.

We are sexualized before we even understand what that means.

We develop into women while our minds are still innocent.

We get stares and comments before we can even drive—from adult men.

We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex—that boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.


So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.

The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.

The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.

The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.

Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.

Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.

Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.

Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.

Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.

Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.

Just. Listen.

The Reality That All Women Experience That Men Don’t Know About

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Defending real liberties

By Gilbert Schramm, Newport News Times “Viewpoint”, August 18, 2016

I sometimes see letters here by people who claim to be concerned about defending our constitutional liberties. This should make me happy, yet on issue after issue, I often find their outcry for liberty is a sham — a cover-up for implementing a quite dierent and more sinister agenda. Time and again, a vague abstract “liberty” is used as a motive to restrict or even violate a very clear, obvious, vital American right.   

The right to vote is the very core of our constitutional democracy. Over the last decade, a large number of states have passed laws that disenfranchise legal voters. Without exception, these laws were promoted by Republicans. In case after case, they failed to show evidence of any widespread voting fraud. Yet, arguing that a single fraudulent vote violated the rights of other voters, they passed restrictive, unnecessary and intrusive legislation that knocked literally millions of legal voters othe rolls in states vital to presidential elections.   

A few years back, the GOP argued that the Voting Rights Act was no longer necessary,   that racial discrimination had ended in the South. What a farce. Again they made a false case for liberty, arguing that states’ rights were more important to liberty than the rights of real people who were still the obvious victims of systematic institutional racism. The GOP Congress has managed to paralyze any correction of this problem.   

There was no more blatant a violation of a basic liberty (property rights) than the illegal bank foreclosures on homes that was practiced during the 2008 mortgage collapse. Republicans have fought against making restitution to victimized homeowners and prosecuting guilty bankers ever since.     

What about a woman’s right to make choices about her body? Conservatives have asserted that the liberties of beings who don’t even fully exist outweigh the real liberties of living women. Recently GOP senate candidate Marco Rubio proposed banning abortions for women exposed to the Zika virus, thereby condemning these women to a pregnancy fraught with potential tragedy and a lifetime of potentially   serving as a caregiver to an essentially brain-dead child. Will Marco be there to help?   

In Oregon last winter, armed intruders occupied a public wildlife refuge. Their action effectively prevented the public from using that land. They justified this criminal act with an outlandish interpretation of liberty.   

In Texas, millions of children will be deprived of a $1.3-billion contribution to their right to good education because the GOP governor there thinks that asking them to share a bathroom might somehow violate some other (unspecified) student’s rights.     

The second amendment, specifically citing the nation’s need for a “well regulated militia,” in no way entitles me to machine guns or high capacity magazines. Unlike the founding fathers, we have the Pentagon as a “militia.” Yet, every time there is the slightest commonsense move to stem the rising tide of gun violence the NRA champions of faux liberty start screaming about a hypothetical “slippery slope.” Freedom of religion is fundamental to the U.S., yet the NRA has endorsed Trump, who is essentially seeking to demonize and ban a whole religion. No slippery slope here, that’s a straight jump off of a steep cliff into outright religious persecution.   

Finally, no assault on personal liberty in the U.S. is more sinister than Citizens United, the GOP’s odd notion that corporations are people. The founding fathers made the one person, one vote rule for a simple reason — each person has a conscience; last I checked, corporations did not. That’s why corporations are not people.   

Everywhere, the same dynamic is repeated relentlessly — loud ranting about faux liberties disguise ruthless attacks on real ones.   

Last week, Donald Trump said that Americans accused of certain crimes should be sent to Guantanamo and tried in military courts. I hope people will carefully examine the fake version of liberty that the right wing has set loose in this land, and then defend their real liberties with their votes.   

Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport

Newport News Times, Friday, August 19, Page A8