It has been a memorable Black History month, with Chris Rock hosting a controversial Academy Award Ceremony and Beyonce’s Superbowl performance of Formation- referencing police brutality. Now, as Black History Month comes to an end and Women’s History Month begins, it is a good time to discuss the challenges that we still face concerning Black women in the labor force. There has been progress toward equality for Black women in the workforce, but a significant wage gap still exists. Data on annual earnings shows that Black women earn nearly 20 percent less than white, non-Hispanic women and 40 percent less than white, non-Hispanic men. This disparity of wages has a detrimental effect on Black women because many are raising families alone. In 2014, 4 in 10 Black families with children under 18 were headed by single working mothers.
It has been a slow but upward climb as equal opportunity and affirmative action policies that were put in place in the 60’s have been effective and an important source for Black women, especially in the public sector. The public sector has typically offered higher wages and has created better opportunities for black women which have allowed them to meet their full potential as leaders. A great example is Alexis Herman. She is the youngest and also the first black woman to serve as the Secretary of Labor.
Joan Farrelly-Harrigan is the Deputy Director of the Women’s Bureau and states, “The enduring inequality we see in the latest data is why our work at the Women’s Bureau is so important, and why we continue to conduct research and policy analysis to inform policy change and increase public awareness on issues disproportionately affecting Black women.”