As a growing segment of America’s workforce, women now hold nearly half of today’s jobs. Their earnings account for a significant portion of the household income that sustains the financial well-being of their families.
Almost 50 years after enactment of the Equal Pay Act, equal pay for equal work remains elusive for millions of working women. In fact, over the past 10 years, the pay gap has remained virtually unchanged. Today in America, women are paid an average of 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. The pay gap is even larger for women of color, with black women earning about 70 cents, and Latinas about 60 cents, of every dollar paid to all men.
When women start at a disadvantage, they stay at a disadvantage. Every time a woman starts a new job or tries to negotiate for a pay raise, she is starting from a lower base salary. So, the pay gap grows wider and wider over time. According to the Labor Department’s chief economist, the pay gap for the average, full-time working woman means she gets $150 less in her weekly paycheck. If she works all year, that’s $8,000 less at the end of the year and approximately $380,000 over a lifetime. That is the real cost of the pay gap.
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama said he wanted to crack down on equal pay violations. As a result, he established the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force that comprised four federal agencies, including the Labor Department. Working together, we have identified persistent challenges to equal pay enforcement and are taking action to address each of them.
At the Labor Department, we are increasing our enforcement against employers who discriminate, leveling the playing field for those who do not, strengthening our regulatory authorities and creating opportunities for workplace flexibility so that women can make reasonable choices to care for their families without being penalized. The department’s Women’s Bureau is developing educational materials, including information to help employers identify potential wage discrimination and resources to assist employers in complying with the law. Our Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will issue new guidance to collect better data on how workers are paid as part of our efforts to root out discrimination among federal contractors.
Equal pay is not just a women’s issue. It’s not just a family issue. It’s a recovery issue. I am committed to finding commonsense solutions to closing the pay gap once and for all so that our nation will be a more fair and equitable place for everyone.