This week, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee released their report Women and the Economy 2010: 25 Years of Progress But Challenges Remain.
The title’s right on the nose.
Let’s begin with progress: Women make up 50 percent or more of the workforce in five industries: (1) government, (2) education/health services, (3) financial activities, (4) leisure/hospitality and (5) “other” services. Twenty-five years ago, only the first three industries made the list.
Now the challenges: Women still comprise less than 14 percent of those employed in the construction industry, which is about the same as where we were a quarter century ago. In the information and manufacturing industries, we’ve actually lost ground.
The report is sobering and instructive but not particularly surprising.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is playing a leading role to address the pay gap faced by women in this country. Today, on average, women earn 17 cents less for every dollar earned by a man doing the same work. This gap is even higher for women of color.
But before we can get equal pay, women – and other protected groups – need a real shot at equal opportunity in employment. That is the daily work of OFCCP. Our job is to hold those who do business with the Federal government to the very reasonable standard that they not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.
We protect workers. We promote diversity. We enforce the law.
Nearly one in four American workers is employed by a company that receives Federal funds for contracted work. That’s close to 200,000 businesses with contracts amounting to $700 billion. Given this breadth of purview, our enforcement actions send a clear message that when it comes to creating a level playing field for workers, the United States Government puts its money where its mouth is.
Thanks to the commitment of the President and the leadership of Secretary Solis, we are hiring and training 200 new compliance officers to beef up enforcement, resolve cases quicker and ensure that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act benefits all workers.
More than 130 years ago in the very first proposal for Labor Day, organizers called for communities to celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” Esprit de corps is Latin for “spirit of the body” and refers to the morale of a team. With a renewed spirit and a restored commitment to securing Good Jobs for Everyone, my team at OFCCP and I wish you a wonderful Labor Day. Together, we’re making sure that reach for good jobs really is within the grasp of everyone.
Patricia A. Shiu is the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs