Women say President Biden’s latest Executive Order advances pay equity

Women are praising President Joe Biden for signing an Executive Order on March 15, 2022, that will require the federal government to determine how to limit or prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from using salary history to set pay or make employment decisions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022, was Equal Pay Day, a date that symbolizes how far into the new year women must work to earn as much as men were paid during the previous year.

Biden’s order also directs federal government agencies to take steps to limit or ban the use of salary history with respect to federal employees.

“The earlier that Equal Pay Day arrives, the closer our nation has come to achieving pay fairness,” said Biden. This means that in 2020, the average woman working full-time, year-round, made 83 cents to a typical man’s dollar — up one cent from the previous year.

“Pay discrimination shouldn’t be able to follow you from job to job through your career—but too often that’s exactly what happens when pay at a new job is based on your salary history,” said Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice.

“President Biden’s executive order creates an important path to a more equitable future by curbing the use of salary history in pay setting for federal employees and employees of federal contractors,” said Martin. “States that have adopted these reforms have started closing race and gender wage gaps. Women—and especially women of color—have been shortchanged for too long. We applaud the Administration’s actions.”

The federal order was also welcomed by Lisa McCormick, a leading progressive Democrat who said New Jersey law already prohibits employers from screening applicants based on salary history.

“Employers in New Jersey are barred from requiring applicants to provide salary history, considering an applicant’s refusal to provide salary history, or inquiring about earnings under prior commission or incentive plans, because these are the most common forms of circumventing pay equity legislation,” said McCormick.

A statement from the White House said, “President Biden and Vice President Harris have long championed equal pay as a cornerstone of their commitment to ensuring all people have a fair and equal opportunity to get ahead. Closing gender and racial wage gaps is essential to building an equitable economy and addressing the barriers that have long hampered women from fully participating in the labor force.”

Emily Martin, C. Nicole Mason, Lisa McCormick

Started by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996, the goal of Equal Pay Day is to raise awareness about the gender wage gap.

“Equal Pay Day lands on a different day every year, and this year women only had to work 74 extra days into 2022 to catch up to what men earned on average in 2021,” said McCormick. “That March 15 is the earliest Equal Pay Day has ever been marked, the occasion calls for some celebration but honestly, it shows that we still have a long way to go.”

The numbers one might calculate on Equal Pay Day show that women are trying to make a dollar out of 83 cents because that is how much they are paid compared to men doing the same or similar jobs.

Even as U.S. women advanced in pay overall, women of color actually lost pay compared to their White male counterparts, according to data from the American Association of University Women.

The Department of Labor released a report pegged to Equal Pay Day that takes a closer look at how the pandemic widened the pay gap among certain groups, finding that caregiving burdens and occupational segregation exacerbated pay disparities among Black and Hispanic women in particular.

“Occupational segregation feeds this negative impact and has significant impacts for women, for families and for the economy,” said Wendy Chun-Hoon, director of the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau.

“This Equal Pay Day, it is clear that pay equity remains elusive for many women regardless of their occupation or sector,” said C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “As women re-enter the workforce, they label higher pay as a key priority when seeking out new opportunities—highlighting the important role employers have to play in accelerating the closing of the gender pay gap.”

“Wage gaps across gender, race, and ethnicity in 2021 are also profound,” said McCormick. “Compared to the median weekly earnings of White men working full-time, Hispanic women’s full-time earnings were just 58.4 percent, Black women’s 63.1 percent, and White women’s 79.6 percent.”

IWPR’s Nicole Mason recently joined the Advisory Board of OPEN Imperative, a new initiative with a goal of closing the gender pay gap in start-up and new businesses within five years—an ambitious goal that will require both public and private partnerships and collaboration.

“We all need to work together to close the pay gap and bring true gender equity to the workforce. Government, employers, and employees all have a role to play,” said Mason. “The pandemic presented us all with new challenges, but I am hopeful that all parties can work together to make real progress on this important issue. Closing the pay gap is a win-win scenario that will reap great dividends for the U.S. economy and the financial security of women and their families.”

“We know that no group is better positioned to advance progress on pay equity than CEOs and the ecosystems that support them,” said Emily Sweet of OPEN Imperative. “The OPEN Imperative was created to harness the power of data and technology and move companies from good intentions to quantifiable action.”

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