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Black Women Earn 63 Cents For Every Dollar a White Man Makes. It's Time To Change That.

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There's a reason Monday marks Black Women's Equal Pay Day. Black women have to work until July 31, 2017 to earn what a non-Hispanic white male earned in 2016.

When someone mentions the gender wage gap and women of color it is often a capping statement that sounds like an afterthought. The majority of those statements sound something like this... "the wage gap is 80 cents on the dollar but for women of color it's even worse." It's no secret that black women have expressed disappointment in being left out of the feminist movement. Statements like the aforementioned exemplify that sentiment.

To navigate stereotypes of being black, a woman, and a millennial is intersectionality multiplied. The dynamics are enough to make anyone settle for whatever wage is offered. However, we know that the amount of money a person earns to support themselves and/or a family increases quality life, and research shows that when women earn more that increases the community in which they live. There are numerous factors that influence the wage gap such as education, occupation, work schedules, access to paid family leave, discrimination, bias, and women leaving money on the table by not negotiating.

A portion of the wage gap is unexplained. Many of these forces are beyond the control of the individual. The one thing that we, as women can control is to negotiate when we get a job offer or offer freelance service.

I was born and raised in the deep south, Louisiana has the lowest wage gap in the U.S. for black women who earn just 48 cents on a dollar. My life’s work is to eliminate the gender wage gap, my journey was impacted by Levo’s #ask4more campaign. My reaction to learning about the wage gap ranged from frustration to being ticked-off, so I decided that I could do something to close the gap.

When I dug into the data and learned that women of color earn less than the popular stat of 80 cents of the dollar, I tried to understand the root causes in order to find ways to close the gap. I began by talking to the women in my family who for years in the traditional job force were underpaid as they led teams. As I heard intimate details of .20 cent an hour raises I was dumbfounded and infuriated. I was able to channel that energy into the framework that I use to coach women to advocate for themselves by negotiating for what they are worth.

The four pillars of the #ask4more framework are as follows:

1. Prepare and Package. Find out what you should be paid in the market you work in. If you're in the traditional workforce check out payscale.com or linkedin.com/salary. For freelance rates visit Upworkor freelancer.com. These sites are just a starting point. It is a power play to verify the rates are realistic and define the value you will add with peers, preferably non-Hispanic white males, because they earn the most in this country. Once you have the rate that is appropriate for your skill level, consider all the things you'll need to succeed in the position and factor that into the salary you are seeking.

2. Practice. It can be uncomfortable and emotional to #ask4more especially when you know there can be backlash for this type of request. Black women face heightened discrimination in the workplace, which is all the more reason to negotiate for the salary you deserve. Practice your pitch beforehand, prep responses to difficult questions, strategize in anticipation of your negotiation and come prepared.

3. Ask. The third pillar in the framework is to move past fear, doubt, and what ifs and #ask4more!

4. Decide. Finally, once you receive an offer do not just accept. It is rare that the first offer is the best offer. Ask for a couple of days to think about the offer and only give a verbal acceptance after you have had the chance to review the written offer.

When you have a full set of tools for negotiating you increase your competitive edge. The gender wage gap for black women is a complex problem and history has shown it is not a problem that going to be solved overnight. Take action after reading this, if you apply this framework and strategically ask for what you are worth, black women can decrease the number of times we leave money on the table by not negotiating.

Jacqueline V. Twillie is a Levo Mentor, the author of Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals, and the founder of ZeroGap—a leadership resource for women in male-dominated industries.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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