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Economic inequities compound when race and gender intersect

News | Jul 23, 2020 | Back to List

Policies need to center women of color

Vermont Works for Women has launched a social media campaign to shed light on the economic disparities Black women experience, elevate policies and practices that focus on improving economic outcomes for Black women and gender non-conforming individuals, and amplify the voices of women of color.


August 13: Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

Today marks Equal Pay Day for Black Women – or the date in the new year in which Black women have to work to finally earn what white men made in 2019.

Black women earn an estimated $941,600 less than white men over the course of a 40-year career, according to the Center for American Progress. This gap is inequitable and undermines the economic stability of families.

The gender pay gap is wider for most women of color.

“People living intersectional realities… experience the compounding negative effects of multiple biases on their earnings. Unfortunately, these women are often left out of the broader conversation about the gender wage gap owing to the limitations of available data. Much more data—disaggregated by sex, race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and more factors—are needed to understand precisely where pay disparities exist and where efforts must be targeted.”

What causes the wage gap?

  • Black women face gender and racial discrimination;
  • Women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-wage jobs;
  • Women do the majority of home and caregiving responsibilities.

In order to close the gender wage gap, workers need paid leave, work flexibility, and affordable childcare. 84 percent of Black mothers are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners for their family. The wage gap impacts not only women, but children and families.

Black women in the workforce identified several benefits they need for economic security, in a survey commissioned by The Time’s Up Foundation.

From Time’s Up article “Gender and Racial Inequity During Crisis: Black Women and the Pay Gap”

August 10: A perspective from Kiah Morris on racism in Vermont, Black Lives Matter movement

Morris served as a Vermont State Representative from 2014 to 2018 and was the second African-American woman in Vermont history to be elected to the legislature. She resigned in 2018 following racist harassment from a self-avowed white nationalist in Bennington, Vt.

Listen to former VT State Rep Kiah Morris’ full interview on Vermont Conversation with David Goodman, where she addresses the realities of systemic racism and microaggressions in Vermont.

There’s so much more to what we think about when we say racism than just the most blatant thing that hurts your heart the most. Because for those that are impacted, it is a death by a million cuts. It is a system of ways that consistently break into one’s spirit and tell you that you do not belong.

Kiah Morris

Aug 6: Intersectionality

Interview is part of The Change the Story initiative in Vermont

intersectionality : the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 in an academic paper titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex.”

The paper focuses on three legal cases that dealt with the issues of both racial and sex discrimination. In each case, Crenshaw argued the court’s narrow view of discrimination was an example of the “limitations of … single-issue analyses.” In other words, the law seemed to forget that black women are both black and female, and thus subject to discrimination on the basis of both race, gender, and often, a combination of the two.

Crenshaw’s theory went viral in the mid-2010s, with the Women’s March in 2017.

With this, the meaning behind the term intersectionality shifted from its original use. Now, it is often used to call for an intersectional approach for the advancement of all human rights.

It asks individuals and movements working to address one form of oppression to take the others into account. For example, efforts to eliminate gender disparities will require examining how women of color experience gender bias differently than white women.

Content sourced from Jane Coaston’s article “The Intersectionality Wars” at Vox


July 27: Sometimes just being yourself is a revolutionary act.

I feel like my entire life has been a protest. My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice, just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.’

Oscar and Emmy award winning actor Viola Davis recounts her struggle to find meaningful, career defining roles as a Black woman in Hollywood and her journey in finding her voice and making a career for herself, in spite of discrimination and a lack of representation within the industry, in the July cover story of Vanity Fair.

Congratulations Viola on the cover! Be on the lookout for her portrayal of Michelle Obama in the upcoming series First Ladies, which is being produced by JuVee Productions, the company run by Davis and her husband.


July 23: It’s about time to value young women of color in leadership

Ted Talk by Activist, Educator and Writer, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, in 2016

In her Ted Talk, Brittany Packnett reflects on what it is like to be a woman of color in a leadership position.

Packnett describes often being the only BIPOC female leader in the room, having to actively work to overcome stereotypes and being overlooked by folks looking for “who is in charge” because she doesn’t fit the archetype of leadership in America: white, affluent, educated, heterosexual male.

Packnett urges organizations and boards to re-think what powerful leadership looks like, and expand it to include people of all identities, especially women of color.

All women are powerful, but women of color, we face unique odds and seemingly insurmountable challenges that we still decide to face down every single day and thrive despite them.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

By not elevating women of color to leadership positions within organizations, we are robbing society of their unique perspective, contributions and impact.

We can have the will and make the choice to create workplaces, institutions and a country that values women of color for all we bring and judges us on the merit of our work, that pays us equitably for the labor we provide, and promotes us according to our contributions.

Because women of color lead powerfully, and it’s to everyone’s benefit.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

For further learning: Brittany Packnett’s Ted Talk in 2019, “How to build your confidence — and spark it in others”, is a must listen for educators and anyone who works directly or indirectly with youth. Watch it below.


July 20: Diversity/Inclusion in the Workplace

75% of organizations that have racially inclusive decision-making teams and leadership, 75% of them exceed their financial targets. And yet, when we look at corporate leadership, in our for example in the Fortune 500, only four CEOs are black. And zero of those four are women…

If we know that looking at the bottom line, inclusion is better for us. We meet financial targets… We succeed in innovation… We experience higher revenues…

Why still do we perpetuate unequal systems that are clearly not only disadvantageous to us as a society, but also to use as businesses?

Xusana Davis, Executive Director of Racial Equity, State of Vermont
Xusana Davis spoke at the Vermont Business for Social Responsibility’s (VBSR) Town Hall on Racial Justice. Watch the recording above for her full remarks.

VBSR has compiled a list of Anti-Racism Resources for Vermont Businesses. They are also developing a series of virtual educational programming on anti-racism. Stay tuned.

“As a business leader, you have incredible influence, which is why it’s so important you be leaders in your community on racial equity. This is your moment to act.”


July 16: Work in America is failing women of color.

Black women in the workplace are…

Business practices need to change, to create equitable pay and opportunities, and safe work environments for Black women.

What is your company/organization doing to be a part of this change?

Certified B Corporation has compiled a list of resources for tackling racism as business leaders.

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.

Anthea Kelsick, Co-CEO of B Lab U.S. & Canada, released a statement to the B-Corp community about the need to take action to dismantle systemic racism.

As a network of business leaders that is currently majority white, we sit in a structurally privileged position to learn from others, to transform ourselves, and to be leaders of change. 

We don’t have to be perfect to start. But we do need to be vocal and bring explicit conversations about race and racism to all of our stakeholders – the people inside our companies, our customers and our communities. Let’s ask ourselves — what am I doing today?

Anthea Kelsick

The Alchemist Brewery, a registered B Corp here in Waterbury/Stowe VT, just released their action plan to combat systemic racism, developed in partnership with Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity.


July 9: ‘Black women best’ Why putting Black women first may save us from economic disaster

By Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, co-founder and CEO of The Sadie Collective, a nonprofit organization addressing the underrepresentation of Black women in economics and related fields, and co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek

Despite historically low unemployment rates in March, within a month of the pandemic, Black women’s unemployment rate has climbed to 16.9%, suffering the greatest job losses as compared with other groups.

Black women are bearing the brunt of this economic crisis, and keep in mind that Black women were already underpaid upwards of $50 billion in forfeited wages before the pandemic, according to economist Michelle Holder. These findings illustrate an ugly truth: COVID-19 is laying bare the structural inequities that compound when race and gender intersectinequities that may be best addressed through re-centering economic policy on Black women.

Employers should shift their thinking on paid sick and parental leave, subsidized child and elder care, and work flexibility to help Black women, who are disproportionately facing COVID-19-related deaths in their communities. This shift can inevitably help all workers regardless of background. When the policies shift to focus on the outcomes of Black women, everyone benefits.

If the economy is working for Black women, then the economy is working for everyone—an ideology that Janelle Jones, Managing Director of Policy and Research at the Groundwork Collaborative, coined as Black women best.

Black women are the core of the nation’s economy, holding the front-line jobs and running small businesses, and they are more often the single heads of households in their communities. If they are elevated through policy, including everything from paid sick leave to stimulus programs targeted directly toward them, the economy at-large will benefit.


July 7: Buy Black

July 7, 2020 is #BlackOutDay, a nationwide campaign which aims to use economic power to support the Black community. Where consumers spend their money matters and tomorrow, supporters of the #BlackLivesMatter movement are being challenged to not make any purchases in stores or online, unless it’s from a Black-owned business.

For a list of BIPOC-owned businesses in Vermont, visit: https://bit.ly/3e5bTie

Additional organizations include Sudfund Vermont and Living Proof Mentoring.


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