Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

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As a teacher, I enjoy teaching my students about historical moments from that past that they can either learn from or relate to. Some of those topics include analyzing the various cultures that have determined a collective way of life, establishing rules that address the needs of the people, or even why they have blue eyes but a sibling has brown. My lessons end with activities that extend their thinking and ask questions that cannot be found in the book.

One of my favorite topics to teach my students is the liberation of women’s rights in America and they role they played during particular times of change like Civil War. Did you know more than 400 women disguised themselves as men and fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Nearly 20,000 women worked more directly for the Union war effort. Working-class white women and free and enslaved African-American women worked as laundresses, cooks and “matrons,” and some 3,000 middle-class white women worked as nurses. I also enjoy exposing them to historical women figures such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher-Stowe, Mary Alcott, Dorothea Dix, etc.

We all know since the beginning of time women have been the essential reason America is the thriving country it is. We also know since the beginning of time women have had to fight for equal rights in America. This includes equal opportunities and pay.  

I am a single mom struggling in the state of North Carolina. I live paycheck to paycheck. I recently left my beloved job for a position in a neighboring city that will pay me a little more. I am sacrificing a lot, but I don’t have a choice. Fair wages would have prevented me from taking such a drastic measure.

Gloria De Los Santos, Durham Director for Action NC says “Fair wages in NC for women would mean a lot. The wages would allow women to be able to take care of their families and earn an honest equal pay without being discriminated against because of race, size, or sexual orientation. In NC we rank 9th in terms of earning between women and men. American women are paid 78% of what their male counterparts earn for the same work. Even though the average median income for women in our state is $35.000  which is about 83% of what men earn, Congress still has not passed any legislation to close the wage gap nationally. Statics show that  If something is not done soon it will take until the year 2058 to address this issue. For NC it will be longer which will not be until 2064. For me, that is long time to wait for pay equality.”

The status of women in the state of North Carolina has a very grim outlook. Based on this article from an article at Institute for Women’s Policy Research, statistical goals for women who began to fight for over 177 years ago are still lacking in governing policies. Although women make up almost 60% of the workforce in our state we make 83 cents to a male counterpart’s dollar. If the trend continues in our state women will not receive equal pay until the year 2064. You can find more discouraging information about our current state as it addresses equal pay here:

The most incredible statistic I read – if women were paid the same as men, poverty would be reduced by half. That’s simple math! Even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women are still treated as second class citizens. What do we need? What do we want? To advance salaries and eliminate income gap, “women need stronger efforts to ensure non-discriminatory hiring and pay practices, better training and career counseling, and improved work-family supports. Public policy such as raising the minimum wage, which increases wages in the lowest-paid jobs, is especially important for women, and particularly women of color. After considerable progress in the 1980s and 1990s, movement towards the greater gender integration of occupations has stalled, approximately at the same time as progress towards closing the gender wage gap. Women need better access to well paid jobs that are currently primarily done by men, and they need better terms and conditions, and better pay, for the jobs that are primarily done by women. Investing in the public care infrastructure will not only improve the pay and economic security of workers in those jobs, it will also make it easier for women and men with care responsibilities to stay economically active and advance in their careers.”

Well duh! Of course we need more opportunities to advance our careers, educational scholarships, affordable child and elderly parent care options. No one is saying an advanced degree is not needed to work in higher level positions that pay better, but it’s much easier for a single man to go to school full time than a single mother with 3 children working two full time jobs.

Obviously we can’t continue to sit down and wait for those in office to do the right thing. I think 177 years is long enough. So what now? I’ll tell you what. Get out and handle this ourselves. Women need to get involved from the grassroots movement of supporting progressive candidates who have our best interests at the heart of their campaigns. Well, you can do that…but where has that gotten us? Ladies, it’s time to stand up and take what we deserve. How? Run for office. School board, county commissioners, whichever office best suites you. Go to a meeting and speak up. Write, email, call, go to your representative’s office. Don’t let it slide. The longer we accept not being compensated fairly the longer it will happen.  




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