The COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy hard as many jobs were lost due to temporary and permanent business closures. The Census Bureau’s Pulse survey showed that tens of millions of people lost their jobs during the early months of the pandemic and while the economy has begun to recover, we still have a long way to go particularly our Black women.
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) data showed that women received 40.3% of the 467,000 jobs that the economy gained in January 2022. However, 1 out of 17 Black women ages 20 years and over were still unemployed. That’s in comparison to 1 in 20 Latinas and 1 in 31 Asian women. So, why are Black women still behind in the workforce?
According to NWLC, a lot of it has a lot to do with the fields that many Black women were working in, which were hit the hardest. One out of three Black women were essential workers in roles that required them to be on the front line. These roles ranged from registered nurse to retail sales. And even in those roles, they were paid 63 cents on the dollar in comparison to white men who worked those same jobs.
The data gave this example: “Black women working full-time, year-round as registered nurses make 90 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men in these jobs; their typical annual losses to the wage gap total $7,000. Meanwhile, Black women working full-time, year-round as supervisors of retail sales workers make just 65 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make in these jobs, which adds up to a typical annual loss of $18,000.”
The report also pointed out that Black women who returned to the labor force after losing employment during the pandemic were only left with low paying jobs to choose from, which is only further increasing the wage gap that already exists between Black women and Black men as well as other races and gender. But Black women can’t end the wage gap alone. Black women need the support of non-Blacks as well as the higher-ups at companies to revisit their hiring practices in an effort to have a more diverse workplace.
NWLC also suggested that we should “support policies that expand and strengthen federal and state unemployment insurance programs; expand access to comprehensive health coverage, including reproductive care; bolster equal pay laws; increase the wages of women in low-paid jobs by raising the minimum wage; protect workers’ ability to join unions and collectively bargain; expand the availability of high-quality, affordable child care; and provide paid family and medical leave.”
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