Each year Black Women’s Equal Pay Day marks the number of days a Black woman must work into the year to earn what her white male counterpart earned in the previous year.
In 2020, that dubious distinction falls today, August 13—226 days into the calendar year. (In contrast, white women caught up this year by April 9.) This is because for every dollar a white man earns, Black women earn $0.62.
And now this pay gap, which has not narrowed for Black women in the past 25 years, is at risk of increasing due to the coronavirus.
According to the nonprofit Equal Pay Today, Black women are more likely to work essential, low-wage jobs, making them both more susceptible to contracting the virus and more likely to suffer job instability. As of July’s job report, almost one in seven Black women were unemployed.
Women of all races are being impacted disproportionately by the economic consequences of COVID-19. That’s unusual, because in “regular” recessions men’s employment tends to be more affected, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
This fall, as many schools across the nation stagger their reopenings or opt for online-only learning, many working mothers may be forced to take a step back in their careers, further exacerbating the motherhood penalty. In the absence of proper childcare, women who work full-time may be pushed to take more sick days or drop out of the workforce completely. That can have long-term implications for their lifetime earnings. Over the duration of their career, women forfeit nearly $1,055,000 in comparison to men, according to one Merrill Lynch report.
But for many Black women, the triple whammy of a public health crisis, the wage gap, and systemic racism makes today’s economic landscape especially harrowing. In Michigan, two-thirds of Black women have either had their working hours reduced or lost their jobs completely during COVID-19, according to a survey by National Women’s Law Center and Mothering Justice. Black women also face more difficulties finding jobs, and when they are hired, they are often paid less.
“If we do nothing, [the pay gap] won’t close for another 40 years,” C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told CBS News recently. “For Black and Latina women, it won’t close for more than 100 years.”