When you look at the data, the story for Black women in the workplace doesn't look good. Today marks Equal Pay Day for Black women, who earn 61 cents on the dollar compared with White men in the same job.
According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, at our current rate of progressBlack women won't receive full pay equity compared with White men until the year 2119. That's a hundred years from now. For purposes of comparison, White women will achieve pay equity with White men in the 2055.
Combine making less money for doing the same job with the many documented slights Black women encounter on a daily basis while working in corporate environments, and it isn't surprising to see that so many of them flee the world of employment to become their own boss.
But the story doesn't necessarily improve there. From 2007 to 2018, women-owned businesses grew by 58 percent. For Black women, that number nearly tripled, growing by 164 percent.
Even though Black women are flocking to entrepreneurship, their earnings there aren't measuring up in comparison. One report from ProjectDiane2018 showed that since 2009, Black-women-led startups have received only 0.0006 percent of the total tech venture funding raised. While the numbers are increasing, on average, firms owned by Black women raise $42,000. The average seed round for all startups is $1,140,000.
Black women are the most educated demographic in the U.S. when you look at the number of associate and bachelor degrees earned. But for a number of reasons, their education levels and the financial rewards they receive aren't aligning, particularly in the business world.
It's time to rewrite this story. Black women are more than capable of performing at a high-level. It's my experience as I look around at my inner circle, role models, and mentors from afar. But for Black women to thrive consistently, we collectively need to do our part to ensure that they feel like they belong in professional spaces. When Black women win, everybody wins.
Here are three ways you can help be a part of the solution.
1. Focus on achieving pay equity.
Starbucks announced last year that it had achieved 100 percent pay equity. It took more than 10 years of concerted effort, but the company met its goal. You can do the same when you commit to it.
And it starts by looking at your numbers to see if there are any inequities that exist in the salaries of your existing team members. Once you know where you stand, you can then work to put solutions in place to start closing the gap within a specified time period. Note: That time period should not be 100 years.
2. Provide mentorship and networking opportunities.
While most of us can benefit from mentorship and wise counsel, it is important to have access to the type of relationships that can lead to breakthroughs in our thinking and move the needle in our businesses and careers.
Last year, Google noticed that women and people of color were underrepresented in the podcasting world. So they created an intensive incubator program in combination with PRX to provide six months of mentoring, training, and access to $40,000 in capital for selected teams to produce their shows.
You can do the same to help prop up Black women within your organization or industry. Start a program within your company. Go to coffee with Black women whose work you admire, and get to know them better. Introduce them to people in your network you think they should know and vice versa.
Small actions can make a big difference in the trajectory of someones career.
3. Provide access to capital and resources.
Last year, Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands, started the $100 million New Voices Fund, which focuses on investing in businesses owned by Black women. Because we know that Black women receive a disproportionate amount of venture capital dollars, Dennis and others are doing their part to level the playing field.
As a leader, you can do that in your own way within your own industry as well. Perhaps that's with investment funds or scholarships to training programs, conferences, or even access to equipment, data, or workspace. Be creative with how you can leverage your resources.
The lagging pay of Black women across the board isn't just a problem for Black women. It's a problem for all of us. So let us each commit to do our part to be an active part of the solution.