Equal Pay Day: Intersectional and Entrepreneurial Perspectives

Today’s Equal Pay Day. Every time I talk about the pay gap, I hear from guys mansplaining how it’s not real, or how it’s really just a reflection of how women don’t want to make as much as men, or whatever. It’s almost like they benefit from the current situation and so don’t really want to change it! But it’s an important issue, and it is real, so today’s a good day to keep talking about it.

Here’s how NCPE describes Equal Pay Day:

This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

“Not all women”, of course. As Connie Razza points on Demos

Equal Pay Day shows the impact of systemic sexism on the opportunities available to women. It is vital to tell the more complex story of the roles that both systemic sexism and racism play in determining women’s life chances.
In fact, there is not one Equal Pay Day, but many. Equal Pay Today has shown that the average woman will not see her Equal Pay Day relative to non-Latino white men for some time yet.

Indeed. Equal Pay Today has the data:

Here’s anotherway of looking at it, from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda:

Intersectionality is real.

Rani Molla’s A black woman in tech makes $79,000 for every $100,000 a white man makes, on Recode, explores how this dynamic plays out in the tech space.

One other thing to highlight is that equity ownership also has huge disparities. As I wrote in my 2011 Equal Pay Day post on Pay Equity and Startups,

Of course it’s far from the only aspect of pay equity, but it’s an important one: combine Facebook’s $75 billion valuation, LinkedIn and Groupon’s hoped-for $25-billion-plus IPOs, Twitter, Zynga, and all the other companies where almost all the stock is held by male founders and almost-all-male investment firms, and we’re talking some serious inequity. And with the ultra-hot incubator Y Combinator investing in literally hundreds of startups with an overall gender ratio of 90% male, it’s easy to see the pattern continuing.
It’s not a matter of interest or competence. Women start just as many companies as men, and women-led companies are on average at least as successful. Instead, it’s a set of historical patterns that have created the current situation: almost all venture capital investment decisions are made by guys, and almost of the money goes to guys.

Things haven’t changed much since then. A couple of weeks ago, Megan Rose Dickey reported YC’s latest diversity numbers on TechCrunch: in their latest batch, 12.5 percent of the YC founders were women. Great, so in only six years we’ve gone all the way to 87.5% male.

And once again, it’s worse at the intersections — I could have just as easily talked about how “all the stock is held by white male founders and almost-all-white male investment firms” and how “almost all venture capital investment decisions are made by guys, and almost of the money goes to guys” . At SXSW 2017, Kathryn Finney of Digital Undivided talked about Project Diane’s research showing that (as of early 2016) only 11 companies led by black women had ever received $1M or more of angel or venture funding — and none had every gotten $10M or more. Yikes.

Still, there are hopeful signs in the startup world. Investors like Backstage Capital and Pipeline Angels, and organizations like Digital Undivided, Women Who Tech, Lesbians Who Tech (and so many more) are making a difference. And there plenty of exciting women-of-color-led startups like Blendoor, Atipica, and O.school. (Disclaimer: I’m O.school’s CTO so of course I think it’s exciting, but I’m totally unbiased about the others :) ) On their SXSW panel, Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code and Kathryn Finney both advocated strongly for an ecosystem approach, and there’s starting to be enough critical mass to make that work. We shall see …

More broadly, though, with the current administration is more focused on removing protection for women in the workplace, the chance of any legislation at the national level that will help address this seems very remote in the short term. Right now, the priority is to resist legislation and policies that will make the situation even worse — and work to elect politicians who actually want to improve matters.

As for actually closing the pay gap, we’ve still got a long ways to go. Hopefully at some point, I’ll be able to end a post like this on a more optimistic note. Still, there are things every one of us can do. Here’s an excellent suggestion from Kashana Cauley.