The Pay Gap is the Tip of the Iceberg for Black Women

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which marks how far Black women had to work into 2019 to make what white men earned in 2018 alone. For a second year, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey partnered to conduct new research to measure Americans’ awareness of this pay gap and better understand the experiences of Black women in the workplace, using SurveyMonkey Audience. And the results are clear and troubling: Black women face far more barriers to advancement, and only half of Americans think these obstacles still exist.

On average, Black women are paid 39 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women. Even when you control for industry, occupation and education, Black women on average are paid less than white men. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, if the pay gap were closed, in a single year, a Black woman working full-time would be able to afford over three years’ worth of groceries, nearly two years of rent, or two and a half years’ worth of childcare.

The new research shows that many people don’t realize Black women are paid less or don’t understand the magnitude of this pay gap. A third of Americans don’t know there’s a pay gap between Black women and white men — and 42 percent of people who are aware of this pay gap underestimate its size. Moreover, half of Americans don’t know there’s a pay gap between Black women and white women.

“While many Americans don’t realize the pay gap for Black women exists, Black women and their families certainly feel the effects. If the pay gap were closed, the average Black woman would earn almost $950,000 more over the course of her career — a staggering figure, especially when you consider nearly 4 in 10 Americans say they’d struggle to cover an unexpected $400 expense,” said Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of LeanIn.Org.

“Just like last year, our research shows that awareness about the pay gap for Black women remains too low,” said Sarah Cho, Director of Research at SurveyMonkey. “We’re also seeing that Black women have far less access to opportunity in the form of job training and interactions with senior leaders. We hope this research encourages companies to dig deeper into the interconnected factors that contribute to this disparity so we can all make progress in narrowing the gap.”

The pay gap Black women face is only one piece of the story. This new research highlights that Black women also experience a lack of access to opportunity:

  • Less access to senior leaders: White men report having access to senior leaders at three times the rate of Black women—and white women at twice the rate of Black women.
  • Less mentorship and sponsorship: Fewer Black women have had a mentor or sponsor at some point in their career: 19 percent, compared to 27 percent of white women and 31 percent of white men.
  • Less access to training: Fewer Black women have ever received job or executive leadership training in their career: 19 percent, compared to 30 percent of white women and 33 percent of white men.

These findings are also supported by research from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace study, which shows that Black women face more barriers to advancement and get less support:

  • Less likely to be promoted: Despite doing their part and asking for raises as often as men and white women, Black women are less likely to be promoted. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 60 Black women are promoted.
  • Less support from managers: Only 25 percent of Black women report that their manager helps them navigate organizational politics, compared to 39 percent of white women and 41 percent of men. Black women are also less likely to get help balancing their work and personal lives (39 percent of Black women, compared to 48 percent of white women and 44 percent of men).
  • Less likely for managers to promote their accomplishments: 35 percent of Black women say that their managers promote their contributions to others, compared to 46 percent of white women and 46 percent of men. Black women are also less likely to get opportunities to showcase their work.
  • Experience everyday discrimination/microaggressions: 40 percent of Black women report having their judgment questioned in their area of expertise, compared to 36 percent of white women and 27 percent of men. And 42 percent of Black women are asked to provide evidence of their competence, compared to 29 percent of white women and 16 percent of men.

More than a third of those surveyed said they believe offering leadership training, increasing wage transparency, and creating flexible workplace policies are effective ways to provide opportunities to help women and men advance equally.


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