Sisters need fair share

Marc H. Morial | 8/9/2018, 6 a.m.

“The average black woman in the United States has to work all of 2017 until August 7 of 2018 to make what the average white man makes in 2017 alone. To say this is a problem is kind of the understatement of the year.” – Sheryl Sandberg at the National Urban League Conference on Aug. 1.

With the 2018 National Urban League Conference focused on the theme “Save Our Cities: Powering the Digital Revolution,” we could not have chosen a more appropriate guest to kick off the event than Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Even better, we were proud to use the occasion to announce two important new initiatives.

New research conducted by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey in partnership with the National Urban League shows that there remains a striking lack of awareness around the pay gap black women face.

On average, black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women — amounting to almost $879,000 lost over the course of a typical career.

LeanIn is an initiative of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, dedicated to empowering women in the workplace.

Our plan is that bringing awareness to this injustice will lead to concrete action. Not only would fair pay for black women drastically narrow the racial economic gap, but it would go a long way toward stabilizing our national economy. Because black women disproportionately are heads of households, fair pay would create a ripple effect that could lift entire communities.

Some of the key findings of the research:

• More than 30 percent of Americans are not aware that, on average, black women are paid less than white men.

• Even when people know there’s a pay gap, it’s bigger than they realize. Forty percent of the people who are aware of this gap underestimate its size.

• About half of white men think obstacles to advancement for black women are gone, but only 14 percent of black women agree.

• Nearly 70 percent of people who are not African-American think that racism, sexism or both are uncommon in their company. Yet 64 percent of black women say they’ve experienced discrimination at work.

Tuesday, Aug. 7, was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Share these facts on social media using the hashtag #38PercentCounts.

The second announcement is an expanded partnership with Facebook to offer training in social media strategy and digital marketing our 13 Urban League Entrepreneurship Centers  in Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; New Orleans; Philadelphia; and Washington.

The National Urban League will also join Facebook as a national adviser, helping  to create new opportunities for small businesses from underserved communities.

This partnership with Facebook perfectly encapsulates the focus of our mission on the intersection between digital technology and economic opportunity. Empowering our entrepreneurs through the use of digital tools is a great example of how to fulfill our conference theme and power the digital revolution.

During our conversation, I asked Ms. Sandberg what she was like growing up and she said she was the “bossy girl.”

She asked the men in the audience to raise their hands if they’d ever been called bossy. Few raised their hands. Then she asked the women.

We know it’s not that women act in more aggressive ways than men — it’s just our expectations.

Next time you hear someone call a little girl called bossy, walk right up to that person and say, “She’s not bossy. She has executive leadership skills.”

The writer is president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League.