Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Equal Pay Day Summit
South Court Auditorium
3:01 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon.
Jen Klein, thank you for the introduction and mostly for the work that you do every day, tirelessly, as the Director of our Gender Policy Council.
And to the members of Congress, members of our administration, business leaders, community leaders, and equal pay advocates who are here with us virtually and in person, thank you for your leadership, for your partnership, and for your commitment to action every day.
So, I’ll begin with a simple truth: Our economy just has not been working as it should for the women of our nation. Across industries, women are less likely to be hired than equally qualified men. They are paid less and promoted slower for doing similar work. Women are routinely shut out of good jobs in high-paying industries — such as science and technology, construction, and truck driving — in part because our society tells women that some industries are just not for them.
And as study after study has shown, women are expected to shoulder an unequal share of unpaid caregiving responsibilities. When families cannot afford or cannot find caregiving — such as childcare, eldercare, or home care — it often falls on women to fill the gaps, whether that means going part-time or leaving the workforce entirely or working full time at a paid job and full time performing unpaid caregiving.
And over the past two years, the pandemic has only deepened these inequities as caregiving has become more expensive and more difficult to find.
And here’s how that all adds up: Today, on average, working women who are working full time, year-round, make just 83 cents for every dollar that a man makes.
And for many women of color, the gap is even wider. Over a 40-year career, a woman will lose out on about $400,000. For Black women, Latina women, Native American women, that loss in wages is closer to $1 million.
And of course, that is money that a woman could use to pay off her student loan debt or put a down payment on a house or pay a mortgage or invest in a small business or save for retirement.
As one must recognize, lower wages mean working women have less money — less money to save today. And lower wages mean they receive lower Social Security benefits in their senior years.
For so many women, the gender wage gap acts as a virtual tax, making it so much more difficult to pay the bills and invest in their future.
It can also have a negative impact on their productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. And by extension, it can have a negative impact on individual businesses and on our economy as a whole.
As the business leaders here today will tell us, closing the gender wage gap — well, it’s not just a moral issue, it’s also a business one.
If we are going to continue to grow our economy and to be competitive and lead the world in the 21st century, we simply cannot afford to leave half of our workforce behind. To build an economy that works for all of us, we must build an economy that works for women.
That is one of our administration’s central missions. And that has been a central mission of mine for quite some time. In fact, when I served in the United States Senate, I introduced what we named the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act to ensure that domestic workers — 90 percent of whom are women — that they are paid fairly and that their rights are protected.
And, with Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, I co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to make it easier for employees to bring equal pay claims against their employers.
And over the past year, our administration has taken important action to address the gender wage gap. We passed the American Rescue Plan, which provided immediate relief to millions of women who were severely impacted by the pandemic.
We passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is creating good-paying, good union jobs, including for many women in industries where they are underrepresented, such as transportation, clean energy, and construction.
Today, we are taking additional steps to help increase pay equity across our nation.
One factor that contributes to pay inequity is the common practice of requiring job applicants to share their salary history.
Now, think about that. Why does that matter? Well, in effect, it’s allowing how much an employee was been paid in the past to impact how much they will be paid in the future.
So, think about that. For many women, this practice can mean that inequitable pay from a previous job will follow them to the current job, and so on, and so on.
So, our administration is committed to eliminating discriminatory pay practices that inhibit the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the federal government.
And that’s why today, our Office of Personnel Management will begin work to address the use of salary history in the hiring and pay-setting process for federal employees.
And today, the President, Joe Biden, will sign an executive order that directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to consider limiting the use of salary history in employment decisions by federal contractors.
In addition, today, our Department of Labor will direct federal contractors to strengthen pay audits. Pay audits help organizations determine whether they are paying all their employees equitably and, if they are not, give them data to help correct that inequity.
The President and I firmly believe that all companies should conduct these audits and, where appropriate, should be transparent about the results. By the way, I think it’s always appropriate to be transparent about the results. Because pay transparency creates accountability. And accountability — well, that drives progress.
Our administration cannot bridge the wage gap alone. It will truly take all of us, working together.
And that is why we are gathered here today at this summit. We can build a more fair, more efficient, and more equitable economy — as I said and truly believe, an economy that works for women and for everyone. That’s how it goes: An economy that works for women works for everyone.
And so, together, we will continue to do this good work. I thank you all — all the leaders who are here. And let us continue with this important work until we truly reach a place where all workers and all people are treated fairly.
END 3:09 P.M. EST