Taking Action in Honor of National Equal Pay Day

President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day, in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014.

President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day, in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama signed a new Executive Order to prevent workplace discrimination and empower workers to take control over negotiations regarding their pay.

Just over two months after President Obama raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contractors, he is again leading by example and taking action to protect American workers from retaliation if they broach the topic of unequal compensation. This is a problem facing a broad range of American workers, but women in particular are too often on the receiving end of subtle or overt penalties for even mentioning their pay.

In addition, the President is asking the Secretary of Labor to require federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation by race and gender — which will help employers take proactive efforts to ensure fair pay for all their employees.

President Obama is committed to ensuring equal opportunity and empowering women in the workforce. Shortly after taking office, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and established the National Equal Pay Task Force. His commitment to women’s equality stems not only from his experiences as the son of a single mom, a husband, and the father of two daughters, but also as our nation’s leader, focused every day on strengthening our economy and maintaining our competitive edge in the world.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Signing

President Barack Obama signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the East Room of the White House. January 29, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Joyce Boghosian)

As the President said in his most recent State of the Union address, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” We truly can’t afford to have women held back or prevent them from reaching their full potential if we hope to maximize the strength and productivity of our workforce.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law to combat gender-based wage discrimination, and in the decades since, women have made extraordinary progress. But there is still a great amount of work that needs to be done. Women still make just 77 cents on average for every dollar a man earns, and continue to face prejudice in the workplace. And that number hasn’t improved — the pay gap has stayed constant since 2002.

Women now make up roughly half of America’s workforce and graduate at a higher rate than men from college and graduate schools — but even professional women make less than men in the same occupation with equivalent degrees. And the wage gap gets worse as they get older: Until they turn 35, women earn roughly 90 percent of what men make; after that, women typically earn about 75 to 80 percent of what men make.

This June, the President will host the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families to discuss issues ranging from fair pay and the minimum wage to childcare and flexible workplace policies to ensure that parents can be productive workers while handling their responsibilities at home. 

The summit will convene a diverse group of business leaders, advocates, parents, and stakeholders from across the country to share best practices, identify strategies that work, and take those ideas to scale. 

The summit and Executive Order will build on President Obama’s ongoing commitment to strengthen the middle class, maximize opportunity for all, and put every hardworking American in a position to succeed.

More information:

Lilly Ledbetter was the plaintiff in the discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the namesake for the first bill President Obama signed into law. Cecilia Muñoz is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
Related Topics: Equal Pay