White House Announces New Measures to Further Equal Pay

President Obama, on Friday, announced new steps his Administration is taking to help close the gender-race pay gap.

Announced during the commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, President Obama has empowered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in coordination with the Department of Labor, to collect pay data sorted by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees. The data collection, which will occur annually, covers over 63 million employees and will provide more concrete information on pay discrimination across industries and occupations. Unlike previous data collection proposals, this new action will include information on benefits and retirement packages, and not simply wage information, providing a more comprehensive picture of the gender-race pay gap.

The Administration proposes to collect the data through a mechanism that already exists. Under the proposal, no specific salary information on any individual employee would be collected. Instead, employers will have to provide summary data. The Administration says data collection will encourage greater voluntary compliance with equal pay laws, but it will also help the EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) identify and focus their investigations on employers who flout the laws.

The White House Council of Economic Advisors issued a report on Friday, The Gender Pay Gap on the Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, detailing the progress of equal pay initiatives since 2009. According to the report, the gender wage gap in the US is larger, on average, than other industrialized nations – by 2.5 percentage points.

In his remarks, President Obama acknowledged that progress on equal pay has been slow and that more action was necessary to support today’s workers, including paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and an increase in the minimum wage. He also called on Congress, once again, to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Administration also revealed plans to host a May 23rd summit in partnership with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation called “The United State of Women.” Bringing together a diverse group of business leaders, academics, and activists, the summit will examine key areas of impact affecting women and girls including educational opportunity, violence against women, and economic prosperity.

Overall, women earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. But it’s women of color who suffer the most, with African-American women and Latinas earning a mere 60 cents and 55 cents respectively for every dollar earned by men. Moreover, studies show women also take on more than half of unpaid work, spending more than twice as time as men cleaning house and caring for children. Over time, this disparity leads to wider gaps in educational and occupational opportunities between women and men, destabilizing women’s economic futures.

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