By Janalle Goosby
Being unemployed is hard, no doubt. Going into debt in an attempt to prove myself through education – even harder. Adding the core of my identity on top of that – being a (proud) black woman – seemingly unwinnable.
Late last week, I was really questioning my decision to complete my M.B.A this coming Spring with thoughts of “is this worth it?” “am I good enough?” and “do I stand a chance?”
Now, these sentiments may be amplified because of my hyper state of vulnerability of being unemployed, racking up student loans, and overall being a 20-something millennial experiencing existential dread.
But I woke up today, at 5:00 a.m, and came across an article in my LinkedIn Daily Rundown. The article was about my soon to be reality come May.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece titled “Pay Gap Persists Among M.B.A. Graduates,” (2019). The author, Kelsey Gee, highlights that minorities with business degrees make 16% less than their peers.
On top of that, going into an M.B.A program showed a 24% pay gap between white students and minority students.
Now, the left side of my brain would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this study only examined 900 men and women who received their degrees between 2005 and 2017 and does not account for a variety of factors that include school rank, company, position, location, etc.
But what it does clearly show is that I earn less, and once I graduate, I will continue to earn less, based on my identity. The same coursework, the same assessments, the same criteria, but different pay.
Is my brain not worth the same because it is housed within a brown female body?
Getting an education should be a good thing, right? After all, our generation grew up with the mentality that we must go to college to be successful.
But then we must also take on crippling debt, plead for experience by accepting criminally low wages, and then graduate and compete for jobs that will pay you less because you are black or brown or a woman.
As I process my current state and begin to craft my future, the findings in the article are both discouraging, and inspiring.
I remember walking to the gym one morning. I live in the heart of downtown so I’m accustomed to seeing men in Allen Edmonds running down Water St. to make it to their offices with impressively tall glass windows.
As I passed one particular office, I glanced in the window and noticed a meeting taking place in a board room. At the table of 10, there were nine older white men, minimum age probably 50.
The one other person in the meeting was me, or it could’ve been. It was a younger, maybe early-30s, black woman. This image stuck in my head for weeks as a reminder to keep doing what I am doing.
The findings in the article inspire me to continue to advocate for my place in the world, in the spaces that need me the most, and not apologize for knowing my value.
So what is the great equalizer? If education is not what evens the playing field, what will it take for my knowledge and expertise to be valued the same?
Claiming my space is a start. Representation in the board room, in M.B.A programs, at meetings, and in all other spaces is the key to begin to address the pay gap. As enrollment is down across the board, colleges and universities are focusing their marketing efforts on diversity and inclusion.
While this is great, efforts should also be focused on ensuring that everyone is treated, and compensated fairly, for their time, talent and knowledge, whether they have a degree or not.
The saying goes that when we know better, we must do better. While more research needs to be done to fully address the pay gap at all levels, we have the knowledge now to do something about it.
Janalle Goosby is a communications professional with a focus in internal and strategic communication. She is currently pursuing a MBA at Alverno College with an emphasis in organizational change management.