Saturday, June 10, an event entitled “You, Working to Rule” is being hosted by the American Business Women’s Association New York City Chapter. The event promises to foster the development of current professionals and teach useful skills to those seeking to become entrepreneurs. The main themes of the conference will be professional promotion, salary negotiation, business ownership, team building and financial wellness. Although the event is open to both men and women of all races, the members of the chapter stress the importance of the event for the African-American community and especially women.
The president of the New York City chapter of the ABWA, Dr. Selma Bartholomew, a former Harlem resident and owner of the educational consultant firm Legacy Pathways, said in an interview with the Amsterdam News, “A major issue for working women professionals is how to negotiation for yourself in that work space. How do you make sure that you are getting a fair pay? How are you getting the support you need from your supervisors and your team? And how do you really navigate that corporate ladder so that bumping up against a glass ceiling.”
Bartholomew also emphasized that the wage gap is detrimental to women. “There is something happening as women grow professionally, or as we become more educated, we’re not learning how to craft our voice,” she said. “We are not really learning how to negotiation in a cooperate environment to ensure that we are gaining access. The effects of this is that if you’re making less, you have less money to pay off student loans, secure yourself and your family.”
Attending the conference should help women learn those negotiation skills.
The phenomenon Bartholomew speaks about is real and documented. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, a non-partisan organization that has worked on enhancing protection for pregnant workers and mandating paid family leave, women in the United States make 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. This wage difference is $10,470 annually.
The disparity is even larger when it’s broken down across races and genders. In the 2014 survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau and published by the Department of Labor, Black women are shown to earn nearly 40 cents for every dollar paid to white men, a $21,937 difference between the median salary of Black women and their white male counterparts. This wage gap supports Bartholomew’s view that women need to learn how to “craft their voice” in the cooperate setting.
Although the wage gap is national news and a multitude of organizations is dedicated to creating policy to end the growing disparity, there is also work to be done on a local level. One way to fight against that growing inequality is to make people on the job aware of statistics and information about this problem. Another way is to partner with a local organization focusing on improving leadership skills, professional development and networking, which are goals of Bartholomew and the ABWA.
One member of the New York chapter, Samantha Nzessi, a professional linguist and a French woman by way of Cameroon, described the importance of her membership in allowing her to get to know “people from different walks of life, who use their creativity to make their mark on the world,” and that, in turn, has inspired her to do the same. “And it’s very beneficial to learn from professionals who each have their unique way of empowering our members,” Nzessi said.
She hopes other women will join the New York chapter of the ABWA June 10 for the “You, Working to Rule” conference. To learn more about the conference and the organization, visit www.abwanyc.org.