The Team Lawrence vs. Team Issa drama continued on season two of “Insecure” on Sunday, as we watched Lawrence trying to navigate his situationship with Tasha while Issa grappled with the reality that her relationship is really over.
But while that drama was juicy, equally as intriguing was Molly’s quest to make it into the all-white boys club at work. Since the first season, Molly (played by Yvonne Orji) has been the girl whose love life may be in shambles, but her career is always on point.
As a high-powered lawyer at a leading Los Angeles firm, Molly believes that if she works hard and plays the game, things should fall in line for her. But last week, after receiving the paycheck of a white male co-worker by mistake, she learns that he makes far more than her despite not working nearly as hard.
Welcome to being a black woman.
Molly’s salary subplot is painfully true to life ― while white women make approximately 80 cents to the dollar white men make, black women make only 67 cents (and Hispanic women make even less).
For black women, gender and racial bias contribute to ongoing pay inequality. Black women make less and work more hours on average ― in fact, for a black woman to earn the same as a white man does in a year, she’d have to work 19 months. (This glaring disparity is the reason why Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is on July 31, to remind us of the seven months of extra work.)
Of course, numbers and statistics are one thing, but the significance of Molly’s salary storyline is that it demonstrates the professional and emotional toll that the wage gap takes on black women. Molly lives in a dope apartment, enjoys expensive wine, nice clothes and laid wigs. She’s doing well.
But this isn’t just about the money, it’s about what the money represents ― a large disconnect between her and her white male bosses that means no matter how hard she works, they won’t view her as an equal.
In the first episode of season two, Molly subtly probed Travis, the lawyer who she accidentally learned makes more than her, for information on his role at work. Had he been putting in overtime? Had he approached the partners for a raise?
“A raise?” he responded. “What, so they can expect even more out of me? F**k no.”
Realizing that hard work may not be the key to a raise, Molly decides to make a play for equal pay by trying to charm her boss at an after-work gathering at a hockey game, where they make pleasant small talk about the sport and the delicious lobster rolls served at the venue.
The next day, in the break room, Molly sees her boss and makes a quip about the lobster rolls. “Huh?” her boss says, totally engrossed in conversation with another white male co-worker. For a second or two, he seems to barely remember Molly or the conversation they had.
The scene ends with the boss essentially blowing her off, leaving the break room with the nameless white co-worker who has seemingly built a rapport with him without expending nearly as much effort as Molly.
It’s a metaphor, really, for what it means to be a black woman in a predominantly white and male workplace, the classic adage of having to put in twice the effort for half of the reward.
In that moment, defeated, Molly realizes that bridging the racial and gender gaps between herself and her boss will be equally as difficult as bridging the wage gap between her and her white male peers at work.