By: Jennifer Klein
White House Gender Policy Council
Today is Equal Pay Day, a moment to highlight the persistent gender pay gap between men and women and recommit to fighting for equal pay for all. In 2021, women working full-time, year-round were paid 84 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to men. Pay disparities are even wider, on average, for many women of color, including Black women, Latinas, Native American women, and some groups of Asian American women.
One of the primary drivers of gender pay gaps is the difference in the types of jobs and sectors where men and women typically work. Occupations dominated by men often pay better than those dominated by women. Because women are underrepresented in higher-paying jobs and overrepresented in low-wage jobs, addressing this imbalance can improve women’s wages and help close gender and racial pay gaps.
The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action by ensuring women can access the good-paying jobs, including union jobs, being created through President Biden’s Invest in America agenda, including historic Federal investments in construction, manufacturing, and clean energy under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS), and the Inflation Reduction Act. The Administration is promoting gender equity through implementation of these laws by using proven strategies to help recruit, hire, and retain women, such as requiring recipients of Federal funds to: provide supportive services like child care to help workers, especially women, stay in the workforce; collaborate with workforce intermediaries like tradeswomen organizations; respect workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively; and support safe and healthy workplaces, including by providing anti-harassment training to workers.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new steps to expand women’s access to good jobs and close gender pay gaps.
- Expand access to good-paying construction jobs, including for women. Today, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced its Mega Construction Project (Megaproject) Program, which fosters equal opportunity in the construction trades workforce. As part of that program, OFCCP will designate BIL and CHIPS-funded construction projects as Megaprojects. From the earliest stages of a Megaproject, OFCCP offers designated funding recipients intensive on-the-ground compliance assistance to strengthen recruitment, hiring, and employment practices. OFCCP also engages a wide range of stakeholders, including worker advocates, community-based organizations, and local recruitment sources, to remove hiring barriers and promote consideration of a diverse pool of qualified workers for jobs in the trades, including women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities.
- Support equal pay efforts in states. The Administration remains committed to working with states to expand pay transparency legislation to more workers. Yesterday, the White House convened state legislators who are working to advance bills this session that would prohibit the use of salary history by employers in setting pay, along with other pay transparency legislation. These new efforts build on the 16 states plus Puerto Rico with salary history bans and eight states with laws requiring salary range transparency in job announcements. The Department of Labor Women’s Bureau also released an issue brief highlighting salary history bans as an effective tool to reduce gender and racial wage gaps in the United States.
- Strengthen pay equity among Federal contractors. Today, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued a fact sheet on how Federal contractors can take a proactive approach to achieving pay equity in their workforces. In the last two fiscal years, OFCCP’s enforcement efforts have recovered $33.9 million in backpay and salary adjustments on behalf of over 10,600 women jobseekers and workers experiencing discrimination, including pay discrimination.
- Promote efforts to achieve pay equity for job applicants and workers. Today, the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau published new analyses of the gender and racial wage gap, including the wage gap by occupation, age, and educational attainment, and information on states’ policies related to equal pay and pay transparency protections.
Today’s announcement builds on recent actions the Administration has taken to support women’s access to good jobs, including by:
- Supporting access to child care for the semiconductor workforce. The Department of Commerce CHIPS Program Office released its notice of funding opportunity for the CHIPS Incentives Program – Commercial Fabrication Facilities to catalyze long-term economically sustainable growth in the domestic semiconductor industry in support of U.S. economic and national security. The CHIPS Incentives Program will provide direct funding, loans, and loan guarantees to support semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. Companies who apply for more than $150 million in direct funding must submit a plan to provide access to child care. This will help employers find the skilled, trained workforce they need and enable parents, including mothers, to obtain and stay in jobs building and operating chips facilities.
- Expanding job opportunities for women in on-demand sectors. The Department of Commerce has many programs that invest in growing industries to expand women’s access to job opportunities. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program requires states and territories receiving BEAD funds to develop a workforce plan that includes strategies to ensure job opportunities are available to a diverse pool of workers, including women and people of color. Additionally, the Good Jobs Challenge $500 million competition is creating pipelines, including for women, to high-quality jobs in high-demand fields. Commerce has also dedicated $1 billion in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge to fund a set of interconnected community investments, such as a Women in Manufacturing trainee program in St. Louis, Missouri.
- Ensuring construction employers focus workforce development efforts on underrepresented workers, including women. Through its implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is asking all competitive grant applicants to address how their workforce training programs and hiring policies will bring underrepresented workers into construction, including women. DOT has already awarded more than $10 billion in competitive awards. DOT has made it clear that highway formula funding and transit formula funding eligible for workforce development can also be spent on supportive services, including child care. If selected by DOL for participation in the Mega Construction Projects Program, certain grantees with project costs over $35 million will partner with DOL to receive compliance assistance with respect to recruitment, hiring, and employment practices, including for women on construction projects.
- Creating and expanding programs to support women enter nontraditional occupations. The Department of Labor Women’s Bureau received $5 million in the end-of-year spending bill to expand the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant. The WANTO grant program helps to expand pathways for women to enter and lead in all industries, particularly infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy, and technology industries. Previous grant awards went to community-based organizations which provided technical assistance to increase women’s participation in pre-apprenticeship and Registered Apprenticeship programs and nontraditional occupations where women are underrepresented.
- Expanding employment opportunities for historically marginalized workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is vigorously enforcing the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to advance pay equity and access to good jobs in employment sectors where women are traditionally underrepresented. In addition, to examine barriers and explore potential solutions for historically marginalized workers in high earning construction jobs, the EEOC held a public hearing on discrimination in the construction sector. Moreover, to ensure that workers understand their rights and that employers understand their responsibilities, the EEOC conducted 192 pay equity events reaching 23,000 attendees in fiscal year 2022.
- Expanding proven apprenticeship readiness programs to underserved communities, including women, in construction. The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration recently awarded a cooperative agreement for nearly $20 million to support TradesFutures, National Urban League, and community partners in “Scaling Apprenticeship Readiness Across the Building Trades.” In partnership with the Department of Labor and the National Urban League, TradesFutures will lead a coalition of community partners to develop a unified strategy that creates a gateway for women, people of color, veterans, Native Americans, justice-involved people and other people from underrepresented communities to access and succeed in Registered Apprenticeship programs. Through this project, TradesFutures seeks to enroll more than 13,000 participants in apprenticeship readiness programs and expects to subsequently place at least 7,000 of them into Registered Apprenticeships in the construction industry.
- Supporting the creation of good jobs for workers. The Department of Labor’s Good Jobs Initiative published several tools aimed at uplifting practical strategies to increase equal employment opportunities on infrastructure projects, including using Project Labor Agreements as Tools for Equity and establishing Access and Opportunity Committees.