On #BlackWomenEqualPayDay, Sen. Harris Called For Women To Be Paid 100 Cents On The Dollar

It's time to act.

Monday, July 31, marked Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which represents the amount of time — nearly eight months — that it takes the average Black woman in the United States to catch up to the amount her White male counterparts made the previous year.


As the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports, "Black women were paid 63 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2015." (That's lower than the average for all women, which is approximately 80 percent.) To illustrate this pay gap, the AAUW tweeted a creative yet disheartening image on Monday.

In the picture, an artist has reimagined the $10 bill, which usually features a portrait of Alexander Hamilton, to feature a black woman. Another difference? It's actually a $6.3 bill. "All the work, part of the pay," the image reads.

Celebrities, politicians, and many others took to social media on Monday to bring awareness to this important issue and call for change with the hashtag #BlackWomensEqualPay. For Sen. Kamala Harris, however, the work goes far beyond just tweeting.

Harris penned an essay for Bustle, published Monday, in which she outlines the problem, cites some sobering statistics, and offers her plan for a solution. "Think of it like this," she writes. "Imagine you were running a race. If you're a Black woman, you would start days behind many others. That's not fair."

As Harris points out, the pay gap affects more than just individual women — it also affects their families, as eight out of 10 Black mothers are breadwinners for their households.

So what is Harris' solution? It starts with "transparency," which the senator is fighting for by co-sponsoring a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill would require employers "to show that pay differences are not due to gender," and would crack down on those "who break the rules or punish employees who seek to be paid equally."

The AAUW points out that Black women are "overrepresented" in low-paying jobs, and "underrepresented at the top." Harris acknowledges in her essay that this needs to change, and encouraging more young Black women to pursue careers in STEM is part of that.

"It's time to address the underlying issues in our education system that push Black girls out of the classroom and limit their education opportunities even before they reach college," Harris writes. "It's time to pass laws that incentivize companies and schools to increase opportunities for technical training and mentoring in the STEM field."

It's also important to ensure that women who remain in lower-paying jobs are paid fairly and sufficiently, which is why Harris supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. (It's currently only $7.25.) The senator also emphasizes that society must not "devalue" female-dominated jobs — such as nannies and housekeepers — which tend to pay less than male-dominated ones.

"I promise to do all I can to advocate for these laws in the halls of our Capitol, and to seek out other solutions to these inequalities," Harris concludes the piece, asking readers to speak to their representatives about the issue. "I believe together, we're a force that cannot be dismissed or written off to the sidelines and we can make real, meaningful progress toward addressing these economic injustices."

Not to mention, closing the pay gap and improving diversity benefits everyone. As the AAUW notes, "Paying all workers fairly means more earners can support their families and grow the economy." 

And who wouldn't want that?

You can read more of Kamala Harris' thoughts on Bustle.


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