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Promoting the Health of Black and Brown Women in and Beyond the Workplace

By Candace Milner

Black and Brown women play a pivotal role in shaping history and driving progress across various fields. The unique challenges these women face, particularly concerning their health in the workplace are often overlooked. Despite significant strides towards gender equality in the workplace, Black and Brown women continue to grapple with unique systemic barriers that adversely impact their physical, mental, and emotional well-being in professional settings.

Pervasive racial and gender disparities in healthcare access and outcomes directly impact Black and Brown women in the workplace. Studies consistently reveal that they are disproportionately affected by conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and maternal mortality compared to their white counterparts. These health disparities are exacerbated by factors such as limited access to quality healthcare, higher levels of workplace stress, and the intersection of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. In addition to health disparities, Black and Brown women often navigate hostile work environments characterized by discrimination, microaggressions, and implicit bias. The prevalence of workplace discrimination not only undermines their professional development but also takes a toll on their well-being. The constant need to navigate these challenging environments contributes to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout, further exacerbating existing health issues

The intersection of race, gender, and socio-economic status compounds disparities in reproductive healthcare access for Black and Brown women. Limited access to affordable contraception, reproductive health services, and maternal care disproportionately affects their reproductive choices and outcomes. In many cases, Black and Brown women face barriers to accessing essential reproductive healthcare services due to factors such as lack of insurance coverage, geographic location, and cultural stigma.

Black and Brown women experience persistent gender wage gaps and are overrepresented in low-wage jobs. Despite their qualifications and skills, these women are often paid less than their white and male counterparts. This gap in income keeps Black and Brown women from accessing essential healthcare and mental health services due to cost. Closing the wage gap is not only a matter of economic justice; but also, a crucial step toward addressing broader health disparities and promoting gender equity in the workplace.

Congress members who understand the dire state of women’s health have introduced a slate of bills to help combat these disparities. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act includes 13 bills that address maternal mortality and disparities through comprehensive investments in every driver of maternal heath in the US. Senators Booker and Warnock introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities.  Rep. Jayapal and Sen. Sanders has introduced the Medicare for All Act which would create an Office of Health Equity that is focused on better tracking, addressing, and preventing health disparities. The Paycheck Fairness Act has 216 cosponsors and would directly address wage discrimination based on sex and increase penalties for violations of equal pay provision.

Ultimately, advancing Black and Brown women’s health in the workplace requires a concerted effort from employers, policymakers, and society. As we celebrate the achievements of women throughout history, we must work to eradicate systemic barriers that continue to undermine the health and well-being of Black and Brown women in the workplace. By advocating for equitable healthcare access, promoting inclusive work environments, and dismantling structural inequalities we can improve the health of Black and Brown women and honor their workplace contributions.