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Black Women Make Nearly $1 Million Less Than White Men During Their Careers

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Tuesday, Aug. 3 is Black Women's Equal Pay Day.

It marks the additional 214 days that Black women must work to catch up with what white, non-Hispanic men earned last year. In essence, Black women have to work for 579 days to make what white men do in 365. 

The pay disparity is stark. 

On average, Black women are currently paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to a non-Hispanic white man. For full-time working Black women, this amounts to a median wage gap of $2,009 a month, $24,110 a year and $964,400 over a 40-year career, compared to white men, according to the National Women's Law Center. 

"I've looked at this in a lot of different ways," said Jasmine Tucker, NWLC's director of research. "I've cut it by education, I've cut it by age, I've cut it by job.

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"It doesn't go away, you know, it gets a little bigger, it gets a little smaller, but the wage gap is there," she added. "There's a wage gap in 94% of occupations."

Research shows Black women face a persistent pay gap, including in jobs that have been essential during the pandemic. Black women who work in areas that are critical to the Covid-19 recovery such as doctors, nurses, teachers, child care workers, wait staff, and cashiers, for example, make 11% to 27% less than white men, according data from the Economic Policy Institute. 

In higher-paid professions, including among doctors on the frontlines fighting Covid, the inequality is magnified. White male physicians and surgeons make $63.41 an hour on average. Black women in these positions make less than $46.59 an hour, EPI found. 

That pay gap can potentially result in millions of dollars of lost wages in a Black female physician's lifetime, Tucker said.

Student loan debt and caregiving duties, particularly for single Black women, are among the factors that can exacerbate the overall gender and racial wealth gap. Yet some companies are making strides to provide benefits that could help narrow the divide — by providing student loan repayment assistance and subsidized child care.

Employers can make tax-free contributions of up to $5,250 a year to their employee's student debt through 2025. That can help many workers, including Black women, who are among those hardest hit by student loan debt. 

While mothers, in general, who work full time earn 75 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, Black working moms are paid just 52 cents on the dollar. However, a recent NWLC report found that if high-quality, affordable childcare were universally available, the result would be a net increase in income of more than $100,000 for the average Black mother over her lifetime. 

Many experts agree the surest way to close the gender and racial wage and wealth gap is to have more Black women in top leadership positions with decision-making power.

"What happens in the workplace is we tend to hire people who look like us ... who think like us, who have a similar background as us," Tucker said. "We're never going to get to a point where companies are hiring Black folks into these important roles, unless there's, you know, Black folks already in those roles."

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