Issa Rae: It’s Time for Equal Pay

Your Take: The creator of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl joins the Make It Work campaign to raise awareness about the gender wage gap.

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Issa Rae 

Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Say Media/xoJane

A lot of people still don’t know that many men and women aren’t paid the same for the exact same work. At this rate, women won’t get paid as much as men until the year 2059. We’re slated to have flying cars and humans on Mars first. I wish I were joking.

It’s hard to believe that this is still an issue in 2015, but the numbers don’t lie.

African-American women who work full time are paid just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white men. For Latina women, it’s 55 cents. Each year, African-American women lose $22,000 because of the wage gap, and Latinas lose $25,000.

Even Oprah has had to deal with getting paid less than her male co-workers. Oprah! So you know if the queen of media has faced this issue, then it’s something a lot of other, less powerful women have had to confront as well.

In my career, I’ve tried to use negotiation to ensure I’m being paid fairly. As a freelance videographer and editor, I constantly had to set my price points, which was hard in the beginning because I honestly didn’t know my worth. In addition to that, I was so eager to work that I was pretty much willing to work for any price point. As I grew more confident in my work, I began to set my prices higher. Sometimes I’d get resistance and sometimes I wouldn’t get the job at all. I’d often have to convince them that I was worth the money.

Something needs to change. And smarter negotiating isn’t enough, because the pay gap isn’t my fault or any woman’s fault. And it can’t just be on women to fix this problem. There is a role for employers and elected officials here, too.

Look around. Every day, responsible, hardworking citizens are making sacrifices for our families in order to get by. Many families rely on two incomes and still barely make ends meet. Imagine how much harder that is when women aren’t paid equally.

I teamed up with the Make It Work campaign to raise awareness around this issue. Make It Work is a campaign advancing the belief that hardworking people shouldn’t have to choose between being there for family and earning a living. That includes men and women receiving equal pay for equal work.

As part of my collaboration with the campaign, we produced a short video: “Lessons in Equal Pay From Corporate America.” The video was our attempt to bring humor to the serious issue of equal pay. Humor can break down barriers for people who might be resistant to certain ideas. We also got to work with a great cast of actors, including Anika Noni Rose and Gabriel Mann, as well as a fantastic group of child actors. Kids just have an ability to make big concepts seem simple. They understand equality in a way that was very cool to see. 

2016 is an election year, and I hope when people see this video, they feel inspired to start asking the people running for office tough questions about the wage gap and what they’ll do to ensure that we all have more equal workplaces. Our elected leaders need to listen to everyday people, not just the wealthy and well-connected, and ensure that our policies allow those who work hard to live a decent life.

I’d also love to see people using the power of social media to start conversations about equal pay. Use #PayGapWTF to share what you would do with the extra money if the pay gap didn’t exist. Let people know why this issue is personal to you.

A lot of us were raised with the belief that it’s not polite to talk about money. If we want to close the pay gap, it’s time to stop being polite and start talking about equal pay.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Issa Rae is an American actress and writer. She is the creator of the hit Web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl as well as Ratchet Piece Theater, The “F” Word and The Choir. She is currently developing a new show for HBO, Insecure.

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