Can I Get A Witness?


Compensating Working Women and the Crisis of Their Financial Instability

The year was 1977. The song writer was Stevie Wonder and the song was, “Isn’t She Lovely.” While the song caught my attention what stayed with me was the album title, “Songs in the Key of Life.” As we celebrate Women’s History Month, there are some songs in the key of the lives of women and women of color that are beyond economic quantification. A CNBC Survey conducted between February 22, 2021 and March 1, 2021 revealed that 53 percent of women are suffering mental health to the point of burnout because of their job. For women of color the percentages are even worse — can I get a witness! Here are some of the economic songs, in the key of their lives.

Double Shift

More than 2.3 million women have lost jobs or left work with less pay and no childcare since February 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic women have spent at least an additional 20 hours per week providing caregiving and house work services, not to mention home schooling. So let’s be clear! Black women who are typically paid 62 cents for every dollar paid to a White man, or in some states paid as low as 51 cents for every dollar paid to a White man, are now working an additional 20 hours per week. The last time I checked the average house cleaner earns $28,794 per year and the average caregiver earns $25,878 per year, which increases the gap by an additional $50,000 plus. Can I get a witness! Yet women continue to be underpaid and undervalued — songs in the key of life!

Additionally, those women working from home worry about their job security and performance being negatively judged due to their caregiving responsibilities. The fact is that women and women of color are judged by a different corporate standard. Women of color are expected to perform at the same productivity level as their white male counterparts in the workplace. Women of color feel that they always need to be “on” from a work point of view. The reality is that women feel they need to be available for meetings at core business hours, which is difficult to achieve when school assignments need to be completed and kids walk into a room. During this pandemic, Black women in particular feel more excluded and can’t bring their whole selves to work. Can I get a witness! How can they when Black women feel less supported at work, have less allies, and in many homes, Black women are the primary breadwinner. Songs in the key of life.

Post COVID-19

If you are a woman or a woman of color, you are already earning 51 cents for every dollar paid to a white man, but it gets worse! A 2020 survey found that 1 in 5 women have nothing saved for retirement! If that’s not a reason to increase women’s compensation, what is? For those women with $100,000 in assets to invest, nearly three-fourths said COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to retire. Let’s add context! If three-fourths can’t retire, 1 in 5 have no savings. And women typically live longer than their husbands or male partners. How is retirement going to work out for you as a woman? There is also a financial literacy bias when it comes to educating women about money. One director at a financial planning organization said it this way, “we don’t encourage women to think about money, the way we often encourage men.” The system must be held more accountable. Can I get a witness!

Let’s communicate the challenges, barriers and systemic issues facing women of color in particular. Many companies address diversity through either gender or race. To better understand and serve women of color in the workplace companies need to adopt a comprehensive approach to their diversity efforts and not address race and gender through isolated efforts. Let’s advocate for women-economics not only in March but throughout the year.  Can I get a witness!

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