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Women of Black heritage are hit harder by the gender pay gap than anyone else

I was recently asked why is there a need to focus on black women and why not all women?

In 2019, November 14th marked that year’s Equal Pay Day. It meant that from that day women were effectively working for free in relation to their male counterparts. It is no secret that workplaces throughout the UK are plagued by pay inequality.

Pay gap reporting reveals that roughly 8 out of 10 UK companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than they pay women. What this report doesn’t show is that the statistics within those women can also be separated by ethnicity. Current research indicates that the gender pay gap is significantly worse for black women.

As a result of this inequality, these women are essentially working the last 2 months of every year, for free.

These statistics show that black women are universally underappreciated within their workplaces. Men (and in particular, white men) by comparison are working the same jobs for more pay, better promotion opportunities and easier progression.

When we discuss the gender pay gap it is often split purely by gender – male vs female. The simple truth is that this is not good enough. According to the most recent research created by the Fawcett Society and Manchester University, for Bangladeshi and Pakistani women the aggregate gender pay gap with White British men stands at 26.2%, while for Black African women the gap is 19.6%.

This research shows proof that even within ‘women as a group’ there is a second discrimination when it comes to pay – ethnicity. Research into this area suggests that the gender pay gap is experienced by women from different ethnic groups in different ways.

All too often, minoritised women are not represented, they simply fall under the banner of woman and their ethnicity is not considered. Companies frequently neglect to take ethnicity into account when they research gender pay gaps and as a result it is difficult to find an accurate account of just how much women of Black heritage are suffering in the workplace pay gap.

By law, companies are only required to report and disclose pay figures based on gender. However, some companies such as PwC are working behind the scenes, on their own initiative, to take ethnicity into account. They have worked to publish their ethnicity pay gap statistics for the last 3 years. They reported a 12.8% BAME pay gap in 2017 and by 2019 this had improved to 10.8%.

The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970 and yet even 50 years later we continue to see inequality. Although there are some companies taking steps to improve, progress is slow, and they are few and far between. We can no longer continue to let this pass by unchecked.

We must work to increase awareness of this injustice. We must call for transparency from all companies and reporters and government bodies. It must become a legal requirement to publish their data broken down not just by gender but by ethnicity and age as well. Not only that, but these companies must be held accountable if they are not showing improvements year on year. Only then will we see an accurate reflection of the gender pay gap and begin to address it and perhaps even fix it.

So, in answer to the original question, grouping all women together has been done, and there is a common outcome – black women are still getting the short straw.