August 7, 2018 – Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
According to Equalpaytoday.org, a Black woman had to work until today, August 7, 2018, to make the equivalent of what white men were paid at the end of December 2017. 63 cents to the dollar is the wage gap between Black women and White, Non-Hispanic, men.
National Women’s Law Center, breaks down pay disparities state by state to reveal more shocking data. In my local area, Metro D.C., Black women can earn even less than the national average. D.C. residents earn 51.6 cents and Virginia residents earn 59.7 cents on the dollar. If you reside in Maryland you are above average with 68.6 cents. This is not surprising since many of the top wealthiest Black communities are located in Maryland. Look at any top 10 list of cities (or counties) where Black men and women are doing well financially, you are guaranteed to see at least 3-4 cities in Maryland.
As a Black woman this ignites my fire, but it also pushes me to do more. Not more work to get more money, but to have tougher conversations with my leader(s) around compensation, push other women to do the same and inspire and educate our young black women to have the voice and confidence to ask for what they deserve.
I facilitate a workshop titled, Women and Confidence in the Workplace when I visit college campuses or student conferences. Every time I show the below slide, a young woman raises her and and asks about overcoming the barriers of negotiating pay.
I always refer back to the slide, discuss each barrier and apply the “money talk”.
Women choose humility over hubris
When it comes to money, our confidence drops. Whether it is asking to borrow money, trying to close a sale or negotiating a salary; we tend to fold, clam up, resent or just completely avoid it. The topic of money seems to drive us away.
There are several stereotypes for women in business, even more for women leaders. Black women are always trying to avoid the “angry black woman” stereotype. And since we constantly worry about this, it spills over and will have us avoiding situations that could make us appear demanding or ego-driven.
Women stifle their inner swagger
Ladies, we have the ability to make things happen. I recently read a article on Forbes.com that says “women outperform men in sales by 3%”, but yet women only make up 39% of the workforce in sales. We have the ability to influence others, and do it well. Yet we hesitate to put any action around creating the right financial opportunity for ourselves.
Inertia feels safer than risk
Versus someone telling us no, we rather stay safe. We practice inertia; that way we do not risk enduring the failure of our ask. As a Black women, at times, we feel as if we do not have a voice in certain situations. When your work environment is not very diverse, or you do not see other black women in leadership levels, you tend to think “what is the point”. This reverts back to, inertia feels safer than risk.
Why not go out on that limb? Take that chance. There is only growth from there. The worse that can happen is that you receive a no. If you do happen to get a NO, take that no. Ask for detailed feedback. Create a plan to better position yourself the next time.
Yes. The next time. You do not give up on the first try.
Women are navigating the workforce without a career map
I have been fortunate enough to create a point on my career map that was designed just for me. As I was brainstorming my new role, crafting a job description, planning my 90 road map and even drafting a business proposal, I failed to touch compensation. It was not until a former mentor of mine asked me “What is the salary range for this role?”.
I could not answer her question. I sat quiet on the other end of the phone.
This is how I felt after I could not answer the question. Her next words to me were “then you are not ready for this role”.
Her words cut deep. She was right.
I was not ready. It is not that I forgot to work a salary requirement into my proposal, it is that I felt it was not my place. Questions stirred in my head every time I worked on my proposal and thought about money.
This is a brand new job, how can I determine the salary requirements?
It is mid way though the year, how can I ask for more when I have not hit sales targets in my current role?
What would be my reason on how I determined my compensation?
I was focused on the wrong components of my plan. Instead of thinking about what I was bringing to the table, I was thinking about what I was not bringing to the table. This is where I went wrong.
Having a career map is important. Having a financial career map is even more important; especially as a woman. Even more as a Black woman.
Perfection = Pressure
Your pitch for more (or the right compensation) does not have to be perfect. You do not have to list out several facts or have articles readily available. You just have to be yourself. No glitz no glamour. Be YOU. When we strive to be perfect it actually impedes your task or project at hand.
Have a solid reason for your ask. Do your research. Be confident. Be ready. Be prepared. And just be YOU.
Growing up, I remember “the talk” I had with my family. They told me that because I am a Black woman, I will have to work twice as hard as those around me. They told me that regardless of my upbringing, education or future work experience, I will still have to work harder.
“The talk” still happens today. Not much has changed but the year.
I recently watched a Webinar hosted by Fairygodboss featuring Michelle Gadsen-Williams on Conviction, Courage & Calculated Risk. Michelle had many amazing “nuggets” that she shared. I was writing notes and quotes as she spoke. But she told one story that stuck with me more than anything.
Michelle was staying at a hotel while on business; she often travels frequently in her Managing Director role. While Michelle was walking down the hall to her room, dressed in a business professional suit, someone stops her and asks her for some fresh towels.
It never stops, is what I thought to myself.
Michelle has over 25 years of professional experience. Held numerous executive leadership roles. Advanced degrees. Author of Climb. Diversity expert. Activist. Philanthropist. And she was recently mistaken for a member of the housekeeping staff.
Fighting for equal pay is just one part of the equation for Black women. Former First Lady Michelle Obama said it best, “We need you to roll up your sleeves. We need to get to work. Because remember this: When they go low, we go high.”