Luvvie Ajayi on Black Women's Equal Pay Day & the Rebellion of Speaking Truth

Luvvie Ajayi

The only thing that makes it possible to get through another #BlackWomensEqualPayDay without snapping? Getting to talk to Luvvie Ajayi about it.

I caught up with Luvvie – writer, activist and self-professed side-eye sorceress – while she was offering 1:1 business mentoring sessions on Chase’s BizMobile, a roving resource guide for entrepreneurs.

The Chicago stop happened to coincide with Black Women’s Equal Pay Day on Aug. 7, a day that marks the fact that, on average, black women worked all of 2017 and this far into 2018 to make as much as white men did in 2017 alone. That’s 38 percent less, and it’s true for black women no matter what we do, including participate in the speaking industry. Equal Pay Day is in April for white women and in November for Latinas.

Last year, Luvvie sparked a conversation about the pay gap in conference speaking fees when The Next Web invited her to speak but said they had “no budget to pay any of the speakers” and didn’t offer travel. Not true. When the conference’s founder got called out for lying, he issued one of the most epic non-apologies of all time.

You don’t need me to tell you that Luvvie is a prophet, y’all. If it feels like everything she says below is a mic drop, you’re right. I want to put all of it on T-shirts and wear them every day. Our conversation has been slightly edited for length and to exclude the 150 times I said, “Right?!” and “Mmmm hmmm” while she was talking.

Luvvie Chi ChaseBizMobile


Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. What can we as black women do to close the gap, and what can our white allies do?

What we can do is just know more about the gap, do more research about the salary and the benchmarks for the position that we’re going for. We have to be our own biggest advocate, so making sure we’re negotiating, because we’ve never been taught to negotiate. A lot of times, we say yes to the first offer. You cannot say yes to the first offer, ever, because the first offer is not the best offer. We have to go back and ask for more.

What our white allies can do is, for those of you who don’t mind sharing your salary, share your salary with your coworkers so they also know where they should be. If you are the decision maker, making it a point to offer an equal amount to begin with. 

And also advocating for people who aren’t in the room. We need white people to do that because we can’t be the only ones fighting. We need others fighting for us also so the work can actually happen.

I was re-reading – and getting mad again – about The Next Web conference. In your Facebook post about the situation, there was some nervousness about sharing what happened. Why is it so hard to call people out? 

We’re always nervous about going against power structures that are bigger than us. Because we’re afraid of what consequences we’ll face. Sometimes it’s worth putting things on the line, especially if you are not a entry-level person at the company or in that industry. 

Sometimes, we have more power than we realize we have, and when we have that power, we have to use it. If I can’t call out pay inequality in the speaking industry, and I’ve been speaking for nine years, when can I do it? So who can do it? 

Just pushing past the fear of consequences because, yeah, the consequences may come, but what if they don’t? What if you’re rewarded for speaking out?

Honestly, if you are in a position of power, you should be willing to take certain hits. It’s just part of the thing, you have to be able to be like, OK, I might lose a couple speaking gigs, or I might lose something but, what else can you put on the line? It’s not your life on the line, it might be your livelihood, but I think a lot of times, the thing that we’re so afraid of losing, we don’t lose.

I was afraid of, OMG, what if I get less speaking engagements? What if people don’t invite me because I’m a troublemaker? It didn’t materialize. Me speaking up actually got more people being like, ‘We want you in the building because we want someone who’s going to empower people to speak up.’

What makes you Rebellious?

My insistence on speaking truth, even when it’s difficult, feels like Rebellion because not enough people do it. We don’t want to rock the boat often, we don’t want people to feel like we’re Rebellious, so sometimes we’ll compromise ourselves and our situations in order to keep the peace, but it’s fake peace because internally, we’re not at peace.

What’s the most Rebellious thing you’ve ever done?

The most thing Rebellious thing I do is just be myself. I think that’s a Rebellious thing because society basically tells you that you’re not good enough, that you should be different than who you are. So it’s considered an act of Rebellion to be comfortable with yourself and be yourself.

I don’t consider it an act of rebellion, I think it’s necessary.

Catch up with Luvvie’s pop culture blog, follow her on Twitter, listen to her podcasts Rants & Randomness and Jesus and Jollof & go buy her book, I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual. Featured photo courtesy of Luvvie.org; additional photo courtesy of Chase.

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Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's always wanted to start when he called her “Rebellious” for taking too many weekends off. When she isn't instigating a media Rebellion, she's thanking her lucky starlets she gets to do whatever she wants on weekends.