Members of ‘Black Girls Code’ attend the ‘Hidden Figures’ New York special screening on December 10, 2016 in New York City.
Photo: Noam Galai (WireImage)

As we focus on the disturbing disparities that make it necessary to recognize Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, there’s an especially sobering statistic that stands out: in addition to the fact that a black woman currently has to work seven months and seven days more than a white man to earn the same salary, that wage gap starts incredibly early—even at her first job. In fact, as early as age 16 (some say as low as 14), black women are paid, on average, 16 percent less than their white male peers; a gap that only grows (to a current whopping 38 percent) in adulthood.

That’s why it’s essential that in addition to educating the masses on the unfairness and universal dangers of unequal pay for equal work, we empower our girls to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to know their worth—and demand it, when necessary. Accordingly, organizations like the much-lauded Black Girls Code are becoming vital in our communities as we prepare future generations of black women to hopefully begin to build their own bridges across the wage gap.

For Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, equity is really the missing component in ongoing conversations about diversity, inclusion and who has “a seat at the table,” as she told The Glow Up:

“[F]rom my perspective, it really drives around this conversation that we’ve been having over the last four to five years in the tech industry—and in industry general—around diversity and inclusion and what that means. And for me, I think we need to add a discussion on equity to all of these conversations that we’re having around diversity and inclusion; I think that’s the third of that conversation that’s so needed,” Bryant said.

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“And when we look at equity, I think this issue about the gender pay gap becomes significant. So, it’s not just about bringing more people into the room, giving more people a seat at the table, which we usually talk about in diversity inclusion; it’s really about looking at those systemic inequalities that doesn’t give those folks a leg up to their peers. And one of the systemic inequities that’s most prevalent is in pay; it’s in remuneration and how people are compensated for the work that they do,” she added.

Image: Courtesy of Lyft

For Black Women’s Equal Pay Day 2018, Black Girls Code is working with corporate partner Lyft to literally drive the conversation forward on equal pay. In addition to their ongoing contribution to Black Girls Code through the Round Up and Donate program, in which tens of thousands of Lyft riders raised nearly $150,000 to grow the number of women of color working in technology simply by rounding up to the nearest dollar, during the remainder of August the on-demand transportation company is doing one better.

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Starting on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day (Tuesday, August 7th) through the end of August, for the first time ever, Lyft will match all rides Rounded Up in support of the Black Girls Code, donating 38 cents to symbolize the 38 percent between black women’s salaries and their white male colleagues. Those donations will help Black Girls Code grow the number of women of color working in technology by giving underprivileged girls access to technological education, equipment, mentorship and careers.

For Bryant, the initiative is personal. As not only a black woman but the product of a single parent household and a single mother herself, she understands firsthand the implications of the fact that women are the primary breadwinners in 80% of black households—a statistic that profoundly affects the mobility of black men, too.

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Bryant considers herself simply “lucky” that she and her brother had access to certain educational opportunities and experiences that helped open doors to upward mobility. But she tells us that it was her own experience as a single parent—albeit at a much higher income bracket—that became the impetus for Black Girls Code.

“[P]art of the reason Black Girls Code even exists today was because I saw this opportunity to give my daughter this very rich educational experience of going into summer camps and learning about computer science,” she said. “But I also remembered that other girls that did not have a mom in the same income bracket as I perhaps wouldn’t be able to provide that same opportunity for their girls.”

The result is a now seven-year-old organization that has been transformative in the lives of its participants, which now number well into the thousands. According to the organization’s website, their goal is to empower black girls with the skills to be qualified for the estimated 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. in 2020, and to “to grow to train one million girls by 2040.”

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But speaking with us, Bryant makes it very clear that while education and skills are a major benefit, black women can’t educate themselves out of the wage gap; even in high-paying STEM fields.

Bryant said, “Even in the technology industry, there’s a pay gap between black women and men, as well as women and men in general. So even though this is an industry that historically pays significantly higher than other industrial categories, there’s still a gender pay gap even in the technology industry.”

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“I think one of the reasons—and some of the studies have shown—that it’s important to provide access to these opportunities in technology is because there’s been data that shows that when women have increased educational attainment it helps to narrow that gender pay difference,” she added. “So if we still continue to see women segmented into industries that have lower pay overall, the amount of time that it will take for us to narrow that gap, it widens. So by giving women—and especially women of color—access to these higher skill level-paying jobs, we’re able to drive this issue of pay equity a lot quicker and more expeditiously than if we were not in the same categories of work.”

While her work with Black Girls Code and powerful partnerships with companies like Lyft are making tremendous contributions to advancing the opportunities of black girls—especially those coming from underprivileged communities—Bryant tells us it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to increasing economic access for all black people.

“I think we absolutely have to have a conversation about pay; about how we compensate black women and women of color, and what that means for the families that they’re trying to raise on a day-to-day basis, in terms of their access to opportunities,” she said. “And it’s important for us to look at this from both the gender as well as a racial equity lens and ensure that black women and women of color overall are compensated equitably to their male peers, because that raises the quality of life those families and gives them an ability to create different features for their families than what we see today.”

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The Glow Up tip: To Round Up and Donate to Black Girls Code when you take Lyft during the month of August (and beyond), go to “Settings” on the app, select “Donate” and choose to round up to the next dollar for Black Girls Code when you ride with Lyft.