While education is often thought of as a great equalizer, it does not shield women of color from the pay gap or the wealth gap. AAUW research released in 2022 found that white women in New York City who attend college are much more likely to receive financial help from family than Black women who attend college, either in the form of a gift or a loan.
Moreover, Black women are far more likely to pay for school with federal student loans than white women (41% vs. 28%, respectively). After graduation, the combined effect of the gender wage gap and the racial wealth gap make it harder for Black women to repay their loans, intensifying the strain on their economic security as they enter their careers. Clearly, relying on education alone is not enough to close the pay gap for Black women.
Black women are more likely to work in lower-paying service occupations (like food service, domestic work and health care assistance) than any other industry and less likely to work in the higher-paying engineering and tech fields or managerial positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the percentage of Black women who are full-time minimum-wage workers is higher than that of any other racial group.
To make matters worse, there’s an even bigger pay gap in the service industry, where women make less per week than women working full-time across all occupations. That’s why a livable minimum wage is crucial to all women (who make up two-thirds of tipped workers), and especially Black women.
In addition to being overrepresented in low-paying occupations, Black women are underrepresented at the top. Black women make up just 1% of the high-paying engineering workforce and 3% of computing. Among the few Black women who do break into these careers, discriminatory practices drive many out.