I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? -Sojourner Truth, 1851
Sojourner Truth’s question still resonates in the persistent wage gap between Black women and White males in Maryland.
Black women still earn a little more than 69 cents for every dollar earned by White male workers, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Even with a 30 cent per dollar wage gap between Black women and White men, Maryland ranks fifth in the nation in term of pay equity based on the organization’s state-by-state ranking. Idaho currently leads the nation in coming the closet to closing the wage gap paying Black women 89.1 cents for every dollar earned by a White man.
“We’re not looking at anything new,” said Linda Loubert a political economist and interim chair of the Behavioral and Social Science Center at Morgan State University.
Working for the state doesn’t help black women close the wage gap in Maryland. The average salary for Black women in state jobs is still $10,000 below the average salary for White men, according to the Maryland Office of Budget and Management’s (DBM) 2017 annual report.
“Maryland was a slave state and even though we now have a large number of Black legislators who can develop laws for us, it’s just not enough. Closing the wage gap is unfortunately not at the top of the list of the many needs blacks have in this state. We have had to pick our battles,” said Loubert.
DBM Director David Brinkley said his organization is working on closing the pay gap in state government. The DBM report acknowledged that Blacks and particularly Black women, continue to be disproportionately represented in lower pay grade jobs, contributing to the wage gap.
In written testimony submitted to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Appropriations Committee late last month, Brinkley detailed efforts being made by the state to close the wage gap.
“The Department of Budget and Management and the rest of the Hogan-Rutherford Administration take the issue of salary gaps very seriously,” said Brinkley
“To address the disparity issues, the state has expanded its current relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and professional organizations and its participation in job fairs that may be sources for African-American, Latino and other diversity recruitment,” Brinkley added.
Officials at Bowie State University’s Career Development Center confirmed that the state has reached out to their school to connect with more students of color. “Yes, the department has conducted a career fair and has done career workshops to help prepare students for state jobs,” said April Johnson, director of Bowie’s Career Development Center.
“Both Black men and Black women are over represented in the hourly wages categories and in lower pay grades,” said Loubert. While career fairs may help broaden exposure and outreach to Black women for entry level positions, Loubert said state government leaders must adopt a mindset that propels the state to move toward salary equity – at all levels.
“It’s really hard for Whites to decide it’s ok for Blacks to make the same amount of money. That mentality still persists,” Loubert said.
“Just to have a state job means that you have all these other benefits, that to some extent increase the wealth of Black folks, even though at a lower level.” She said that those in power may unconsciously convince themselves with the rationale that, “It’s ok, at least they have good jobs,” Loubert added.
“You’ve got to get the state to recognize this and admit it.”
Brinkley’s testimony at least signals that DBM is working on the kind of analysis that will help the state move beyond pooling women of color in entry level positions.
“DBM will work with state agencies following a thorough analysis of this information to ensure that more women and minorities are hired into professional positions,” he said.