Earlier this year, on April 4th, we celebrated Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into 2017 women had to work in order to take home the same salary for the same type of work as our white male counterparts in 2016. The thing is, for many women, Equal Pay Day comes later in the year.
In fact, today, July 31, is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day—meaning, black women must work seven additional months in order to catch up to white men. We feel it’s important to acknowledge that the wage gap is not one size fits all. It is not enough to recognize, in general, that women are unfairly compensated and deserve equal pay. We must also acknowledge that the wage gap disproportionately affects women of color, and it marginalizes mothers, too.
How Much Does Your Kid Cost?
Here’s what’s fascinating: Did you know that the wage gap between mothers and childless women under age 35 is now greater than that between young men and women? Research shows a 4 percent wage penalty for having one child and a 12 percent penalty for having two or more children for women. When we talk about the cost of parenthood, we often limit conversation to the hard costs—childcare, education, healthcare, etc—but, how often do we discuss this “mommy tax”?
In The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden defines the mommy tax as the “highest tax on families,” and goes on to acknowledge that the impact of the mommy tax on a household, with a child and a total income of $81,500, could result in a loss of as much as $1,350,000 in lifetime income.
Considering that 81 percent of American women become mothers by age 40, the mommy tax, on top of the wage gap, absolutely impacts a woman and her family’s ability to build wealth and work towards greater economic mobility.
Rethinking Harmful Policies
As women of color professionals, we struggle with the reality that our race could net us lower offers, and as working mothers, we resent that our children are often seen as demerits by employers. In the same way that the color of our skin should not impact our ability to obtain equal pay, neither should the status of our uteruses.
This isn’t only about individual employers, though, this is also about the policies and culture that govern their actions. Until the United States requires employees have access to paid maternity leave (we’re one of only five countries that doesn’t), until higher-paying jobs no longer demand 24/7 availability, and until affordable, high-quality childcare is a right and not a luxury, families will be forced to decide that one parent must take a less demanding job, reduce hours or turn down a promotion. These types of decisions particularly disadvantage women, women of color, mothers and the intersection of all three (which we happen to be) with permanent sacrifices to earnings and long-term security.
An investment in mothers is an investment in families and communities. Women drive 85 percent of business and consumer purchasing, with $2.1 trillion of spending attributable to moms alone. We volunteer countless hours—at schools, community programs, athletic programs, etc—subsidizing our economy at our own expense. Women also invest 90 percent of their income back into their families and communities. Creating economic opportunity for us is one of the most effective ways of creating positive social change for everyone, well into the next generation.
And it’s up to us to move the needle. That’s why The Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign and The Representation Project are teaming up: We are challenging the status quo that pays women less, sees less of our numbers in leadership and particularly devalues those of us who come from communities of color.
Join us by using #RepresentHer to demand more women in office and more women- and family-friendly policies. Let’s fight for ourselves like we’d fight for our children, because marginalizing us marginalizes them, and we won’t stand for any of it.
Let’s see to it that Black Women’s Equal Pay Day no longer exists. Let’s roll back the mommy tax. And let’s build a culture that allows each of us to reach our full human potential.