Biden signed an Equal Pay Day executive order that encourages, but does not direct, the government to consider prohibiting federal contractors from seeking information about job applicants’ past salary history. The Department of Labor also issued a directive aimed at strengthening federal contractors’ obligations to audit payrolls to help guard against pay disparities based on gender, race, or ethnicity.
“I hope that it will be an example for all private companies to follow,” Biden said after signing the executive order. “Gender equality is not an exclusive problem for women. It benefits everyone.”
The Office of Personnel Management was directed to consider a regulation to address the use of past salary history in hiring and setting compensation for federal workers.
Equal Pay Day is designed to draw attention to how much longer women must work to earn what men earn.
The data shows that while the pay gap is the smallest in history, the coronavirus pandemic has altered women’s participation in the workforce so that “what we’re seeing is an artificial narrowing,” said Jasmine Tucker. , director of research for the National Women’s Law Center.
For example, women who remained in the workforce during the pandemic and worked full time often had higher earnings than their counterparts who lost low-paying jobs, so the 2020 numbers should not be compared to pay gap data. from previous years, Tucker said.
The cloud of the pandemic overshadowed this year’s Equal Pay Day events at the White House, which included speeches by prominent activists and a familiar refrain from the Biden administration for workers to join unions.
“Over the past two years, the pandemic has only deepened these inequalities, as care has become more expensive and harder to find,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at an evening event.
“Over a 40-year career, a woman will lose around $400,000. For Black women, Latina women, Native American women, that lost wages is closer to $1 million,” Harris said.
The White House Equal Pay Day summit was attended by cabinet members, business executives and players from the US women’s soccer team, which recently won a $24 million settlement with US Soccer in a discrimination dispute .
The deal includes a commitment to match salaries and bonuses to match the men’s team.
Star midfielder Megan Rapinoe said the team’s high-profile win could resonate especially with unionized workers, who are collectively fighting for equal rights in the workplace.
“I think the more we connect our stories, the more we literally connect with each other,” he said, “if I see myself in unionized workers in Alabama and they see themselves in us or our team, it’s all nice. same thing because we’re all dealing with the same problem.
Among other issues, the Biden administration wants to combat occupational segregation so that women have better access to high-paying jobs, which tend to be dominated by men.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said fair pay efforts have a big impact on the economy, as “some research suggests that if women were paid a fair wage, working women’s poverty would be cut in half.” .
Last October, the administration issued a national gender strategy to promote the full participation of women and girls in society.
Tucker said there is a long way to go to achieve equal pay, especially after the pandemic.
There were over 1.1 million fewer women in the workforce in February 2022 than in February 2020, meaning they are neither working nor looking for work.
“There was a particular shedding among low-wage workers, and what was left were middle and high-wage workers who were insulated from the pandemic,” Tucker said.
In 2020, the average woman working full-time, year-round earned 83 cents on the dollar compared to a male colleague doing the same job, according to the White House. The gap is even larger for Black and Native American women and Latinas.
The problem also affects women later in life. A 2020 Brookings Institution study of women’s retirement found that Social Security benefits for women are, on average, 80% of those for men.
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.