Equal Pay Day, the symbolic annual reminder of how far women have to work into the new year to earn the same pay white men earned the previous year, took place this year on April 10th.
Now, four months later, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day has finally arrived. On average, black women have to work eight additional months to achieve pay equity with white men. (This year, Native American and Latina women won’t cross this threshold until September 7th and November 1st, respectively.)
Currently, black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women, according to new data released by SurveyMonkey and LeanIn.org in partnership with the National Urban League. Over the course of a typical career, this amounts to nearly $870,000 in lost wages.
Karen Civil, CEO of Live Civil and Always Civil
Karen Civil is CEO of the marketing and branding agency Always Civil and founder of the blog site, Live Civil. She’s been dubbed a “self-made marketing guru for the hip-hop generation” by Complex and has created branding campaigns for artists and companies including Lil Wayne, Beats by Dre and Nipsey Hussle.
What was your first job out of school?
My first job was at Burger King in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I was making $5.15 an hour.
Were you paid fairly for the work you were doing at that time? If not, how did you find out you were underpaid?
At the time, I thought I was. But after a few months, I learned that certain people who lacked the skills I possessed were getting paid $5.75 an hour. When the shift managers didn’t find it necessary to give me a raise, I decided to move forward with a new job at Nautica where I was making $7.25 an hour.
What negotiating advice do you wish you had known in your 20s?
When you’re an independent contractor/entrepreneur, you have to realistically know what’s worth your time. My motto now is to never step over a dollar to pick up a nickel. You just have to understand that certain projects are not worth the energy.
What advice do you have for black women today who are thinking about asking for a raise?
If you’re in a male-dominated industry, like myself in entertainment, you have to work twice as hard just to be respected or given the same opportunities as others. Some women think the way to combat this is to up-sell their talents while offering them at a discount. But the biggest mistake we can make is to undersell and overwork ourselves. If you do quality work, then you need to believe in yourself and never lose sight of your worth.
Remember, don’t be afraid to do your research and add that to your negotiation. You can include details like, “Other people in this position are making this annually,” or “The average pay rate for this company is.” This will show how serious and detail-oriented you are when dealing with business.