Black girls and women may be magic, but the impact of their power often goes unrecognized, or even penalized, in society and by the government.
In “The Status of Black Women in the United States,” a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) commissioned by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), authors Chandra Childers, Ph.D., Asha DuMonthier, Ph.D., and Jessica Milli, Ph.D. show that Black women face a number of setbacks in the political, economic, health, and professional sectors — despite making tremendous strides to shore up their strength in these same areas.
The findings present a series of disappointing contradictions. Black women voted at higher rates than all other groups of men and women during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and registered to vote in record numbers. (Not to mention, 94% of them voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.) However, there are no Black women serving in the U.S. Senate, and they form just 4.1% of officials elected to the House of Representatives.
“Black women have the highest participation of going out, voting, and of activism in their community, yet what we see is that they have very low representation either at the federal level or in our state houses, and we’re also seeing efforts to actually undermine that participation by voter ID laws for example,” says Childers, a senior research scientist at IWPR and one of the authors of the report. “We’ve seen cutbacks in early voting, which is central because again, these are women who are largely working.”
In the professional world, Black women have always had high rates of labor participation compared to other ethnic/racial groups of women, and currently, 62.2% of Black women are in the workforce. However, nearly a quarter of Black women in the United States live in poverty, compared to 18.9% of Black men and 10.8% of white women (who have the lowest poverty rate among women). According to the report, in 2015, Black women’s unemployment rate was “higher than the rate for women from any other of the other largest racial and ethnic groups except for Black men” — and education is hardly a salve.
“In April 2015, the unemployment rate for Black workers with bachelor’s degrees was equal to the unemployment rate of White workers with high school diplomas only,” the report authors write. The impact? Black women who had advanced levels of education were still shut out from economic opportunities and chances to advance toward more senior positions, while nearly one-third of black women remained concentrated in low-wage, service-sector jobs, which often lack living wages and benefits.
The disappointing stats go on and on, but Childers has some recommendations, focusing on Black women making median-earning income and less.
“Black women have a higher rate of unemployment than women from other racial and ethnic groups, which reflects multiple factors, including discrimination,” Childers says. “There’s a role that employers can take in ensuring they’re not making hiring decisions based on characteristics like race …