Commentary: It takes 20 months for a black woman to earn what a man earns in a year. We can fix that. August 19 2019 Dorri McWhorter and Cherita Ellens Chicago Tribune The recent signing into law of the “no salary history” bill by Gov. J.B. Pritzker has brought the gender pay gap to the forefront yet again. Statistics show that women, in the aggregate, make 80 cents on the dollar compared with men. This persistent disparity inspired the creation of a national Equal Pay Day, meant to commemorate the day when women’s earnings “catch up” to those of men from the previous year. This year, it was March 28. It’s important to acknowledge that Equal Pay Day is not “equal” for all women. Thursday represents Equal Pay Day for black women. This means that black women will have to have worked all of 2018 and through Aug. 22, 2019, to earn what men earned in 2018 alone. When calculated by race, black women make only 61 cents to the dollar; Native American and Latina women fare even worse, making 58 cents and 53 cents, respectively, compared with white men. That means when we commemorate Equal Pay Day in spring of each year, black women, along with our Latina and Native American sisters, are actually nowhere near equal. Historically, black and other minority women have been overrepresented in low-wage jobs, which accounts for some of the pay gap, but by no means is the only factor. Other factors include the gap in advancement opportunities, occupational gender segregation and the “motherhood penalty.” According to the Chicago Foundation for Women’s most recent gender equity report, black women in Chicago experience at least a 5-point gap in leadership and managerial participation rates when compared with those of white men. To boot, black women with an undergraduate or graduate degree fare even worse — gap-wise — than low-wage women, encountering a 36% gap in pay between themselves and their white male counterparts. The National Women’s Law Center notes that the wage gap often widens over the course of a black woman’s career, causing her to lose nearly $870,000 in potential earnings. These same women, who turned to education to level the economic playing field, are often saddled with far more student loan debt than their white peers. Additionally, women experience a 40% drop in earnings immediately following the birth of their first child. A higher percentage of black women as “heads of household” means their pay gaps are less likely to be ameliorated by a second salary. And finally, because wage levels determine contributions toward Social Security, pensions and other retirement benefits, the wider gap in income persists beyond black women’s working years. While all of this may seem dire, we are encouraged by recent policy changes. The game-changing “no salary history” law, which takes effect Sept. 29, will break the cycle of low salaries begetting low salaries. Studies have shown that as early as their first year graduating from even prestigious colleges, women encounter a salary pay gap that persists throughout their careers. Currently, in most places in the country, companies can penalize and even fire workers for sharing salary information. While we in Illinois are protected by the Equal Pay Act, we need passage of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act to make sure others across the country can benefit from similar protections. The burden to uncover pay discrepancies shouldn’t fall on individual women alone. Companies also must look for inequities in their own ranks by conducting regular pay audits and addressing any compensation differences that are uncovered. Additionally, we need to push for legislation that allows women and men to share the burden and provide the flexibility to care for their families, through such benefits as paid family and medical leave and paid sick time. We cannot end the pay gap without also looking toward system-level change in corporate America, which drives 70% of our nation’s economy and, therefore, wages. The gap in the number of black women on corporate boards has an effect on the development of more equitable corporate policies and practices. Even though stop-gap legislation was passed last year in the Illinois State Assembly, we must revisit the question of requiring Illinois corporations to have diverse boards by including women and underrepresented minorities. Women of all races must work together to close the wage gap for their sisters of color. As writer Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own!” The organizations we represent are working to close the wage gap for all women — and to advance gender and racial equity. Read the original article here.