June 10, 2023

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a law that laid the foundation to ensure that workers in this country receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of their sex, for doing substantially similar jobs. It was the first of many laws that protect workers from pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, and more.

In 1963, women overall were paid only 59 cents for every dollar paid to men. Sixty years later, while we’ve had some progress in closing the gender pay gap, pay disparities persist. Today, women overall are paid 84 cents to every dollar paid to men – and this gap is even more pronounced for Black women, Native American women, Latinas, many Asian American women, and women with disabilities.

Gender and racial pay gaps reflect a combination of factors that lower women’s earnings over a lifetime. Women experience outright discrimination and, in 90 percent of occupations, they are paid less than men, on average. Women are less likely to participate in the workforce, or work as many hours as men, due to time spent on caregiving combined with the lack of affordable child care, paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, and fair and predictable scheduling. Mothers may experience the compounding effects of discrimination, and lower work hours due to caregiving responsibilities, leading to a parental gender earnings gap, or “motherhood penalty.”

In fact, a recent published study funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau found that mothers lose an average of $295,000 in employment-related costs over a lifetime due to providing unpaid care to minor children and older family members. Additionally, differences in jobs held by men and women may contribute to the gender pay gap. Jobs held primarily by women, such as nurses and teachers, tend to be undervalued and have low pay and few benefits. Conversely, women are underrepresented in higher paying jobs, such as engineers and electricians.

Pay disparities compound from paycheck to paycheck, resulting in lower annual earnings for women, especially women of color. In turn, lower earnings harm their ability to afford basic necessities like housing and child care and to build and sustain their families’ financial security. Also, it impacts their ability to save for an unexpected expense and save for retirement. Over a lifetime, women lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earnings and retirement savings.

President Biden and Vice President Harris are committed to making progress to achieve pay equity and realize the vision of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The following actions are some of the many steps the Administration is taking to tackle the drivers of gender and racial pay gaps.

To address pay discrimination and disparities that can follow workers from job-to-job, the Biden-Harris Administration is:

  • Advancing pay equity and eliminating discriminatory pay practices for the Federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a proposed regulation on May 10, 2023 that would prohibit the use of prior salary history in the hiring and pay-setting process for Federal employees. These proposed regulations advance the Federal government as a model employer for the Nation and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to attract a workforce drawn from the full diversity of America, consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce.
  • Promoting pay equity for job applicants and employees of Federal contractors. President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to consider action that would enhance pay equity and transparency for job applicants and employees of Federal contractors and subcontractors. This includes consideration of limiting or prohibiting Federal contractors from seeking and considering information about job applicants’ and employees’ existing or past compensation when making employment decisions.
  • Improving tools to address pay discrimination among Federal contractors. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has proposed reauthorization and revisions of their compliance review scheduling letter for Federal contractors, which includes a change to allow OFCCP to request two years of prior compensation data to better identify whether systemic pay discrimination is occurring in a contractor’s workforce. This builds on a recent resource released by OFCCP on how Federal contractors can take a proactive approach to achieving pay equity in their workforces.

In recognition of the caregiving responsibilities that create challenges for working women and lower their earnings, the Administration is:

  • Supporting family caregivers and making child care and long-term care more accessible and affordable. President Biden issued an Executive Order with the most comprehensive set of action ever taken by a President to improve care for families. The actions include lowering costs for families benefitting from the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, improving the affordability of child care on military installations, improving access to home-based care for veterans who require supportive activities of daily living, and providing greater support to family caregivers and making it easier for them to access Medicare beneficiary information. The Executive Order also includes a provision directing federal agencies with grant programs to consider requiring applicants seeking federal job-creating funds to expand access to care for their workers. This builds off of the historic child care requirement for semiconductor employers seeking significant federal funding under the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to submit a plan for how they will help employees access affordable child care.
  • Stabilizing child care providers. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act included $39 billion to help child care providers keep their doors open and to provide child care workers with higher pay, bonuses, and other benefits—reducing turnover and attracting new staff. To date, these efforts have helped 220,000 child care programs, which employ more than one million child care workers with the capacity to serve 9.6 million children.
  • Improving access to leave. President Biden issued a memorandum calling on Federal agencies to support Federal employees’ access to leave without pay, including during their first year of service, to care for themselves or a loved one and to support their access to paid leave and leave without pay for purposes related to seeking safety and recovering from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The Department of Defense also issued a memorandum expanding the Military Parental Leave Program to provide active-duty service members 12 weeks of parental leave following the birth, adoption, or placement of a child for long-term foster care.

And, to improve women’s access to good-paying jobs and raise wages for their existing jobs, the Administration is:

  • Raising the minimum wage for Federal employees and Federal contractors. President Biden signed an Executive Order on the Federal workforce that led OPM to raise the minimum wage for Federal civilian employees in the U.S. to at least $15 per hour, impacting 67,000 Federal employees. President Biden also signed an Executive Order to increase the hourly minimum wage for Federal contractors to $15 an hour, with future annual adjustments for inflation, impacting 327,300 employees of Federal contractors. Women make up the majority of low-wage workers who will benefit from the executive actions.
  • Improve pay and job quality for care workers. The Executive Order on care signed by President Biden also includes provisions directing Federal agencies to increase the pay and benefits for child care workers, improve the quality of home care jobs, and support domestic child care and long-term care workers with a sample employment agreement to understand their rights.
  • Promoting women’s access to good jobs through the Investing in America agenda. President Biden’s Investing in America agenda – including historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the American Rescue Plan – will create millions of good-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing, and clean energy. The Administration is promoting women’s access to these good jobs by using proven strategies to help recruit, hire, and retain women in these sectors. This includes allowing recipients of certain Federal grants to spend workforce development funds on providing supportive services like child care that will help women stay in the workforce and creating and expanding programs that support women enter non-traditional occupations.
  • Expanding access to good-paying construction jobs. The Department of Labor’s OFCCP Mega Construction Project (Megaproject) Program fosters equal opportunity in the construction trades workforce. As part of that program, OFCCP has designated 12 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.

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