The month of August, eight months into the year, is how far into 2018 a typical black woman must work to bring home what a typical white male was paid at the end of 2017, according to the organizers of Black Women's Equal Pay Day.
Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, observed today, comes nearly five months after Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into 2018 a woman will have to work to earn what her male colleague earned in 2017.
Black women earn 96 percent as much as their black male counterparts, and earn nearly 83 percent as much as white women in the workforce, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The news for black women is not promising if nothing is done. Black women may not see equal pay until 2124 if current trends continue, the think tank Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found.
In addition to deserving the right to be paid equally for equal work, eight in 10 black women are the breadwinner of the family, according to the IWPR. Black women represented one in seven women in the civilian labor force in 2015, or about 10.2 million women.
Over the course of a 40-year career, black women's losses total $867,920 because of the pay gap, the National Women's Law Center recently reported. For black women living in eight states in the U.S., the lifetime wage gap would amount to more than $1 million compared to the earnings of white, non-Hispanic men.
Groups like the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, comprised of women's legal advocacy and worker justice organizations, are working to help erase the pay gap for black women by shining a spotlight on the fact that such a gap still exists in 2018.
A survey commissioned by Lean In, the women-focused organization launched by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, found more than one in three Americans are not aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and half of Americans are not aware of the pay gap between black women and white women.
"This pay gap for black women persists across industries, occupations, and levels of education," Sandberg and Laphonza Butler, a union leader, wrote in an essay for Fortune magazine. "No matter what her job or how educated she is, the average black woman is still earning a great deal less than a white man at the same level."
The actress Jessica Chastain placed Hollywood's spotlight on the pay gap for black women when she spoke out after learning her costar, Octavia Spencer, who is black, was making less than other actresses, even with her Academy Award for "The Help."
"Your silence is your discrimination," Chastain told The Hollywood Reporter in June. "So if you are succeeding in an environment where there is discrimination, you are actively being discriminatory."
She continued, "I knew women of color got paid less than Caucasian actresses. What I didn’t know is someone of Octavia’s level, who had an Oscar and two Oscar nominations, how much less she would be getting paid. When she told me what she was making, that’s what really made me go, 'Hold up, that doesn’t compute in my brain.'"
The disparity in pay for black women sparked a social media storm Tuesday in observance of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The hashtags #BlackWomensEqualPay and #DemandMore both trended on Twitter.
Celebrities from “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts to tennis legend Billie Jean King and actress Patricia Arquette raised their voices in support of equal pay for black women.