Black Women: Most Educated, but Most Undervalued


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You keep hearing these stories about Black women being the most educated group in the United States. Right, we go to school, graduate, and get degrees. But that does not seem to be enough.

When we get to these jobs, we realize many things. One, we get paid less than others doing the same line of work. And two, our hard work--working twice as much--is not noticed. 


The million dollar question is: 

Is college education a powerful tool that could close the racial pay gap?

Well, let's start with the facts: 

The National Center for Education Statistics stated that “between 2009 and 2010, black women earned 68 percent of all associate degrees awarded to black students, as well as 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of all doctorates awarded to black students.”

These numbers are significant compared to other racial groups and compared to men.

There is a higher percentage of black women enrolled in college compared to other racial groups of just women.

Of course, we know that black women are not in leadership roles in corporations, companies, and organizations--professional spaces. Black women make up 2% of those in leadership roles.

Another fact: On average women are paid about $20,000 less than white men each year. And this is just women. 

There are three things we need to realize:  

#1. white women still don't have equal pay with white men. 

The National Committee on Pay Equity’s research predicts that white women won’t receive equal pay until 2059. This is a detrimental finding. If white women are not receiving equal pay any time soon, where does that leave black women?


#2. Black women are undervalued. 

Every day, Black women work hard to achieve the American Dream. To get their dream career, to buy that house, and get that car. In our eyes, it's possible. Black women work. And it's more than 62%. We wake up each day and go to that job. 

But this is the kicker, although black women aspire to be in leadership roles, they usually can't because of the hurdles they go through at work.

Hurdles are:

  • Bias

  • Discrimination

  • Socioeconomic status

It's up to whether their counterparts believe in them. There is a bias that black women simply cannot get the job done. Black women are not perceived as leaders in the workplace. When a black woman walks into a room at work, people assume she is the secretary or an admin person. This is quite funny because Black women are given many responsibilities at work, even outside their job description. 

#3. black women and the workplace culture. 

Because of the workplace culture, black women are most likely to comply with situations at work that may seem unfair to them. Some black employees may have the mindset of "I need to just make this money and accept the workplace for what it is". It's more or less seem like the easier route. This is coping with workplace situations that appear to be not fair. These things can be

  • Micro-aggressions

  • Micromanagement

  • Inappropriate racial jokes

Black women who are in corporate America usually don’t have the resources to navigate the race and gender dynamics that inevitably appear in the workplace. Race creates a divide that most of us wish didn’t exist, especially from nine-to-five. So, rather than talk about it, we try to ignore it.

Although Black women strive to gain education to fulfill their career goals, the "fulfilling" is more likely to take a longer time than usual compared to white professionals. 


Images credited to UK Black Tech


Kiki N. works in government. She has a bachelors degree in Sociology. She is interested in the Black women narrative and experience. 


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