It is a significant but somber milestone – Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The day falls on July 27 and represents the seven additional months Black women must work into the new year to earn what white men made at the end of the previous year. This pay disparity remains a persistent issue that demands both attention and action. At the forefront of this issue is Tyrona “Ty” Heath. She is the Director of Market Engagement at LinkedIn’s B2B Institute and a co-founder of TransformHer. Heath she is dedicated to highlighting matters that significantly impact women of color. She emphasizes the importance of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, furthering the dialogue around this economic imbalance.

The Wage Gap for Black Women

Equal Pay Day reports that, on average, Black women earn only 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns. This wage gap is not just a number; it affects every facet of Black women’s lives. It can limit their financial freedom, housing options, access to quality education, and overall health outcomes. The root of this problem can be found in a history marred by discrimination, biases, and structural barriers. For too long, society has normalized a system undervaluing Black women’s labor and contributions. It has resulted in an income gap that further widens the wealth gap, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.

However, highlighting the issue is only the first step toward the solution. Companies must prioritize pay equity, transparency, and unbiased hiring practices. Additionally, legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act could provide substantial progress toward pay equality.

21Ninety spoke with Heath to learn more about her background, navigating pay in her career as a Black woman, and discussing compensation.

Interview with Ty Heath

Credit: Courtesy of Ty Heath

21Ninety: Let’s start with your experience as a Black woman and how you navigated pay in your career.

Ty Heath: Navigating pay and your career as a Black woman can be challenging, so I intentionally developed a squad. I’m fortunate to have had amazing mentors, colleagues, financial advisors, and a network of people who’ve been there to support me throughout my career journey, offering invaluable guidance. Besides having a support network, taking responsibility, being thoughtful, and being proactive in shaping your own career path are crucial.

In conversations with my manager, we discuss goals for my role and the business. It’s an excellent opportunity to share your perspective on where you envision your growth and how you plan to achieve it. We should never hesitate to advocate for fair compensation that reflects the value we bring to the table. Building generational wealth and securing our financial future starts with making sure we are being paid fairly in our current positions. 

21N: What are somethings to consider when discussing compensation?

TH: When entering into discussions about compensation, as Black women, we know that, because of the system we live in, it’s possible that we may be penalized for asking for what we deserve. In my career, I have found that if you ground your compensation discussions on the following principles, you are more likely to be heard:

  • Focus on Your Mindset: Understand that you are worthy, you are valuable, and you deserve to be paid equitably. You were hired because of your talent and the skills you bring, and you deserve an equitable salary that reflects that. 
  • Understand Your Value: Be self-aware and clear on the value you bring to the organization. This requires some introspection and conversations with the people around you who can give you a 360 view of where they see your talent and where you bring the most value.
  • Do Your Research: Understand the multiple dynamics that could impact your salary. What’s going on economically in the market, within the company, and in the industry, and how your current location impacts your compensation? Do your research, connect with HR, and have conversations with your manager.
  • Advocate For Yourself: Start with your intention and try to put the person in your shoes – use phrasing like, ‘If you were me…’ Establish a support system of coaches, peers, and mentors who can help you along the way. And remember, it’s not just you you’re fighting for; you are helping to normalize the conversation for Black women who will come after you. 

21N: In your experience, how does the pay disparity impact the career advancement and growth opportunities for Black women in various industries?

TH: The National Women’s Law Center says this wage gap typically costs Black women $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year, and nearly $1 million over the course of their careers. Additionally, Black women, in particular, tend to receive less feedback, fewer significant assignments, and limited mentorship, leading to negative impacts on our career growth and negotiations.   

21N: With conversations around recession on LinkedIn up nearly 900% since last year and just 32% of Black professionals feeling prepared for an economic downturn, what can Black women do to position themselves for success? 

TH: As your first professional “hello” to the workforce, create a LinkedIn profile that includes relevant skills and keywords featured in descriptions of jobs that seem interesting to you in your Profile, which can further boost your visibility in recruiter searches. You can also signal to your community that you are interested in a new role by turning on the OpentoWork feature on LinkedIn, which is an incredibly effective way to get your profile at the top of the recruiter algorithm. 

In today’s tight labor market, employers are prioritizing skills over degrees to fill their open roles.  Developing in-demand soft skills like communication and creativity will serve you well no matter which job or industry you end up in.

21N: What steps can companies take to ensure that their workplace culture is inclusive and supportive, fostering a sense of belonging for Black women employees?

TH: When people from diverse backgrounds and cultures work together, we all succeed. Companies must evolve not only the way we hire but also ensure they’re retaining and promoting employees by building programs across the employee lifecycle to create a culture of belonging. This includes creating employee resource groups that help to build community and offer support for Black women internally, crafting development programs that are aimed at engaging and developing Black talent in the U.S. and training people managers on inclusive leadership.  

You can learn more about Ty Heath and connect with her on her website.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.