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Lee County advocates weigh in on equal pay day for black women

Posted at 8:25 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 20:25:29-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Equal Pay Day for Black women is finally here. Tuesday marks the day that the salary for black women finally catches up to what white men already earned last year.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, black women earn 63 cents for every dollar of their white male counterparts. That means it takes them an extra 214 days to earn what white men make in a year.

Gerri Ware, civil rights activist and a Charter Member of the Fort Myers Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated - a historically black sorority - has many accolades that didn’t come easy. Her journey to equal pay began after graduating from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University with a nursing degree and returning home to Fort Myers in 1965.

“Unfortunately not being able to get hired as an RN at the white hospital, but hired at the black hospital where I made $300 a month,” she said.

That was about $100 per week less than her white male counterparts, she says. So, hearing that black women still get paid 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes, comes as no surprise to her She says the push for equality continues.

“The fight never stops. We as a people will never stop fighting until we see Jesus,” she said.

She says rather than complaining about unfair pay, she went back to school and earned a degree to teach nurses and now works in real estate. She encourages other black women to pursue entrepreneurship instead of traditional jobs.

“Don’t sit back waiting for white people to give you anything,” she said. “If we would combine our dollars, you know what I’m saying, and create businesses, we could do it.”

“It” being get paid what they deserve.

Joseph Liu, Assistant Professor of Human Resources Management at Florida Gulf Coast University says the unfair pay is a result of thoughts and feelings passed down from generation to generation.

“What ends up being the driver of these effects are more subconscious or unconscious biases,” he said.

He says that unconscious bias plays out in performance evaluations and other measures that prevent women from getting paid equally. He recommended how companies could help.

“Train their managers or supervisors about what these biases are; what they might manifest. Train them how to do their performance manifestations in an objective way that’s documented,” he said.

Another piece of advice from Liu for women is to negotiate. For whatever reason, a lot of women simply accept the first offer that’s made. He says negotiating could raise the bar.