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Crucial Conversations: Creating equal pay for women of color

Women across the country have fought to be paid equally to white men. However, minority women aren't even paid equally to white women.

MACON, Ga. — The conversation about closing the gender pay gap isn't new. On average across the country, white women make around 79 cents on the dollar compared to white men, but Black women are much lower than that at 62 cents on the dollar. In Georgia, Black women make around 61 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Hispanic women are even below that. They make 54 cents on the dollar. 

The National Partnership for Women and Families says Georgia has one of the largest populations of black women in the workforce in the country. However, the wage gap compared to white men is more than $22,000 a year. 

Eryn Rogers spoke to Andrea Glover of I Am Developing Company about equalizing the playing field. 

Eryn: What are the reasons why you wanted to create the coaching factory?

Andrea: Working as a human resource executive for six years, it really gave me a lot of insight into what do we need to be successful. In the corporate world, what are employers looking for as far as sustaining their talent in the building, and how do we ensure that our communities are able to meet the needs of those businesses? I saw a gap for women of color who, if they work in these positions, are either overworked, underpaid, or they're working extremely hard and they don't understand the nuances and the politics, and how to navigate working with people and interpersonal relationships, and the skill sets that need to go along with that. 

Credit: WMAZ

I Am Developing Company really stemmed from that gap and seeing the need for women, especially women of color, who are doing an extraordinary job at their job and within their careers, but you don't see a lot of them advancing to management positions or going into education and furthering themselves. What's important, what are the real true skills that we need to have in order to be successful, and how do we teach our young black and brown girls and women, so they can be successful and support their families, support themselves, and truly be a force to be reckoned with, but also the confidence to walk in the world in that way?

Eryn: What was that gap that you were seeing when it comes to women of color in the workplace?

Andrea: I think the first thing is we talk about those soft skills, we call them "essential skills" in my line of work, but having confidence, and just being able to naturally understand, what does my role entail, how do you execute that role, and how do you execute that role at the highest of caliber, so when that annual review roles around, you're not guessing if you're going to get the highest raise, you're actually looking forward to that recognition and that reward. Being able to be vulnerable and ask questions and ask for help, being able to articulate a problem, and how you may foresee that problem being solved with a level of confidence and knowing that it may not necessarily work out exactly how you envisioned it, but you're bringing in people into that collaborative space, and the other thing is really being able to take feedback. Women of color have often been deemed as individuals who are a little more feisty at the workplace. If you're a woman of color who's in power, it's really hard for you to articulate what you need and hold people accountable to doing that without thinking what the ramifications or repercussions may be for doing that, what is the image you're portraying, and how will people perceive you, so you have to fight that societal battle, but you really are trying to do the best that you can in operating in business.  A lot of women of color are playing it safe, keeping their head down, doing what they need to do to make sure they survive in their workplace, when they really have the skill sets to run and operate and lead organizations and lead businesses that would require them to earn more money, and have more flexibility in their schedules, and really be the powerhouses that they are. 

Credit: WMAZ

Eryn:  So not only are we fighting to be equal to men as a sex, we're also fighting to just be paid equal to other women. Can you just talk about that?

Andrea:  I think it's twofold. There's a moral issues, and there's a legal issue, so oftentimes, we as women appeal to morality. We're saying this is the right thing to do, so we should be able to move forward to ensure that women of color, and women in general, are paid as much as men, but I always challenge myself to think, "If I was a white man, how would I approach this?" Oftentimes, they would address it from a legal standpoint, and looking at it from a lens of policy and lens of legality, on how do we ensure, if we're not going to discriminate against women, and women of color, then we need to make sure the policies align with what we communicate rather than appealing to the morality of the issue. 

White men will have to be transparent about their pay. I know working in a corporate office, and I worked for human resources, we reprimanded individuals for talking about pay, so we have to look at our policies and procedures, and corporations have to rip off those systemic issues and those systemic pressures because of the nature of the information, so we really have to be able to challenge ourselves from the top down and say women of color have to most certainly speak up, but the power doesn't lie in our hands, we still make $0.66 on the dollar, so every white man, every white woman, if you are wanting to ensure that the pay and wage gap is closed and there are equal rights, then you have to say what can we do as a company, you have to go back through your books, look at experience, look at pay, look at education levels, and how do we ensure that we are fairly and adequately providing pay amongst all individuals across the board. So we don't only have to appeal to the morality and empathy part of it because it's harder to empathize with women of color because you haven't walked in our shoes, and you're like, they're strong, they're capable, they're resilient, they're adaptable, they'll get through, and we always do, but that doesn't make it right. 

Eryn: Have you experienced any discrimination when it comes to pay?

Andrea: This is always a great question because as women we don't know if we've been discriminated against. Months later, I learned that he was making $30,000 more than me. That's an incredible amount of money. $30,000 is someone's annual salary. It really put a damper on my drive, it made me step back and look in the mirror and say does this company really value who you are, does this company value what you bring to the table. I never thought I'd be a victim of it. It really does psychologically make you second guess who you are and your value.  

Credit: WMAZ

Society is only reiterating these norms, and perpetuating these norms that we are constantly battling, and then society is asking why aren't women of color CEOs of any fortune 500 companies, or why aren't women of color in these leadership positions, and I'm saying to myself because you don't value us in a way that says we want to honor them, and the drive that they have, and the vision and perspective that they bring. Oftentimes, value is aligned with words when it comes to women of color: "You're doing a great job," "You're amazing," "We really like what you're doing," but for white men, value is shown with how much they make and how much money you can tie to that individual, so we really have to recondition our minds. 

Eryn:  How as minority women do we make sure we're prepared and ready when that change comes?

Andrea: Be proactive in your position, seek out what is the salary range for your position, ask questions about if I was to have this amount of years, and this amount of experience, where would I land on this pay scale. Again, coming from Human Resources, I know that information isn't always accessible, but if we never ask, we most certainly will never know, so we have to challenge ourselves to not just accept what we have been given but to do our due diligence. I believe in having a tribe of mentors, and one of those needs to be a white male because white men can go into places and spaces that we don't even know exist.

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