Unemployment Hitting Black Women Hardest

By Aileen Dodd Contributing Writer | 9/6/2013, 6 a.m.
Last week, as the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, President Barack ...
The unemployment rates for Blacks is worse now than it was when President Obama first took office in 2009 and steered the nation through a recession. 

Black women who do find jobs despite the trend toward unemployment typically earn less than Black males. They are paid about 91-cents for every dollar earned by Black men. Their weekly pay of $595 is approximately 85 percent of the average salary of White women.

Jillian Longe, a business analyst with a hospitality firm, said Black women need to go into their job searches with the right mental attitude and compete for the wages they want.

“I was determined,” said Longe, who sends out 20 resumes a day tailored to the position she is seeking. “I don’t accept statistics and think that I am one of them. I am diligent when I am looking for work. I have a methodical approach. You have to stand out. You have to have faith.”

Still, some black women grow despondent due to the lack of work and take themselves out of the competition altogether.

The disparate access to economic opportunity for some groups is “making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive,” President Obama told more than 250,000 people gathered on the mall outside the Lincoln Memorial last week as he called for the nation to continue to march for better jobs and pay.

“For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?” the President said.

“Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder …,” he added.

History aside, Ray of Gwinnett County says she doubts her race has much to do with her joblessness.

“I don’t feel like I’m not getting a fair shot,” she said. “Me not continuing to further my education in a competitive job market probably has more to do with it. A lot of the jobs that used to require a high school education now prefer college degrees. You have to have the skills and the education.”

Ray says she is willing to settle for any customer service job that pays her a decent wage.

Longe, a divorced mother of three who works in internet technology, is more selective. She re-entered the job market after only one month of unemployment because she said her skills were in demand.

In recent years, her annual pay jumped from $40,000 to $75,000 after she moved from being a computer technology team member to an analyst. She got the experience working as an analyst by shadowing supervisors for free; something she said some women aren’t as willing to do.

“I told a manager that I would just love to take on extra work and meetings to learn the job and offered my help to the team,” said Longe, who has a four-bedroom home with a basement in Gwinnett. “There are lots of opportunities to retrain. Sometimes going back to college at a certain age and stage of life is not always best. You may have to offer your services as a volunteer and work for free to get actual experience. You have to have a plan.”