Pay me in equity: how grassroots organizations are fighting to close the wealth and pay gap for underrepresented communities

by | Aug 2, 2021

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Image Credit: Rosie - Pamela Barba
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In 1996, Equal Pay Day was created to raise awareness around the gender pay gap. While the gender pay gap between women and men is alarming even 25 years later, the gap is even more disproportionate between women of color and non-Hispanic white men. The ACS Census reports that the 2021 wage gap for Black women compared to non-Hispanic white men is $0.63.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is celebrated on August 3rd because according to Equal Pay Today, it is the approximate day a Black woman must work into the new year to make what white non-Hispanic men made at the end of 2020.

These pay inequities that still exist not only affect employees in communities of color, but their families as well. In their upcoming book Hiring for Diversity: The Guide To Building an Inclusive and Equitable Organization, authors Arthur Woods and Susan Tharakan note that “pay inequity is the most systemic issue of the hiring process directly influencing how opportunities are created for underrepresented groups.” Ultimately pay inequity directly widens the wealth gap making it harder for these groups to catch up.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the 2008 recession produced similar workforce trends in the US, specifically for communities of color. According to American Progress, during the Great Recession and the pandemic, Black workers were twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts. “Workers of color, especially women of color, also receive lower wages and have less access to paid sick leave and paid leave for child care than white workers.” Coupled with limited healthcare access and sick time, and cultural issues that range from name bias on applications and official documents, to societal pressures around the strong Black woman” trope, Black women are forced to work harder to reap only a handful of the benefits that non-Hispanic white men are often guaranteed with a fulltime job.

Today, underrepresented communities at large are demanding accountability and change from employers and businesses across industries, which have historically benefited from civic inequities.

The 15 Percent Pledge, founded by fashion designer and activist Aurora James, calls on retailers and other major businesses to commit 15% of their shelves to Black-owned businesses. Many of the organizations that have taken the pledge generally agree that Black culture has had a major impact in fashion, music and entertainment, and support the increasing demand for Black content creators to get their just due and be paid appropriately.

Innovation in tech and media are now making it easier than ever for Black creatives and business owners to profit from their content and products. On the flip side, it is also enabling consumers to directly support their communities and initiatives.

An example is TipSnaps, a premium platform for Black and Brown creators founded in 2017 by CEO Lyonel Douge’. TipSnaps gives Black and Brown creators the opportunity to directly monetize their content. While the company operates similarly to Patreon and OnlyFans the biggest difference is they are Black-owned. Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Vic Boddie, believes that TipsSnaps is a home and a springboard to help content creators grow into entrepreneurs. But in order to continue climbing towards entrepreneurship, businesses, creatives and changemakers need visibility, resources, and access to channels that can help amplify their message, product(s) and content.

The Equity App, founded by Bianca Forde and Joe Paul, highlights the harsh reality that racial pay disparities do in fact still exist. The app leverages data to close the growing racial pay gap via Crowdsourced and corporate ally insights. At the Equity App, they believe that “pay inequity is not a gender problem or a race problem; it is an American problem.” They also acknowledge that closing the pay gap will inject trillions of dollars into the US economy. “By signing up with The Equity App, you become a part of the solution to zap the pay gap,” says Forde. The Equity App is currently using its Instagram account to encourage followers to create a safe environment for everyone to #talkpay anonymously, and engage in conversations that challenge systemic racism and its role in widening the national pay and wealth gap.

According to the American Express 2019 State of Women Owned business report, the gap between African American/Black women-owned businesses’ average revenue and all women-owned businesses is the greatest of any minority. A. Walton Smith, a Black mother, business owner and entrepreneur recognizes the challenges that go into starting your own organization. “We often face inequality at our jobs, but also in our businesses. I can’t watch that any longer,” she explains. Black Woman Owned uses resources and tools to get the community more education, funds, and opportunities to be financially free. Smith started Black Woman Owned, to help Black women and consumers find Black owned businesses, products and services they want to support. Through social and digital media exposure they aim to help Black women-owned businesses increase their annual revenues.

Organizations in marketing and advertising are not only advocating for the industry, but for the talent that are involved. 600 & Rising has committed to creating meaningful and substantial change that Black talent deserve, and are actively working towards dismantling systemic racism and injustices within the industry. The advocacy group has recently launched an anonymous survey that gives everyone in the industry an opportunity to share their perspectives on wage equity. By taking the survey here, individuals can support them as they build towards empowering talent, create transparency and impact policy in the advertising and PR industries.

While the gender and race pay gap is an uphill battle to conquer, there is no shortage of ways to join the fight. To find out how your business can address the civic inequities, read about the suggestions from organizations like Lean In and the Society for Human Resource Management which vary from conducting internal audits to addressing unconscious bias.



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Topic: Inclusion
Written by Dominique Dajer
Creative Storyteller and Marketer

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