On Friday, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to closing the gender pay gap. In a brief released by the White House, the President unveiled a new set of rules that would require companies with over 100 employees to provide data to the federal government that breaks down pay based on gender, race, and ethnicity.
According to the brief, the goal of the initiative is to help companies better track their pay bias and to provide the federal government with hard data so they can better act against it. We often hear the statistic that women make 79 cents to the man’s dollar — something the White House quoted in its brief, and the President quoted in his subsequent speech — but in reality, that statistic refers to the amount of money white women make in comparison with their white male counterparts. For women of color and women with disabilities, this gap is even wider — and these new rules would help provide additional insight into just how wide it is.
“This won’t solve every problem,” President Obama said. “We’ve still got to get more women and girls into high-paying fields like science and technology, engineering and math. We still have to make sure that women aren’t penalized or held back in the workplace simply for starting a family.”
While the new measure won’t fix everything overnight, it does prove the President’s dedication to putting a serious dent in the wage gap. In fact, the decision to buckle down on pay inequality aligns with the 7th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first major piece of legislation the President signed into law. The act extended the time period for bringing pay discrimination claims to court — and Ledbetter herself was the one to introduce the President at his speech today.
As always, women should receive equal pay for equal work, but culturally, we’re still trained not to believe it. Multiple factors contribute to the gender pay gap in the United States, including education opportunities, the industries women are encouraged to pursue, and the penalties most women endure for taking maternity leave. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, women are less likely to negotiate their starting salary or to ask for a raise compared with men. By dismantling our ingrained beliefs of lesser worth and by chipping away at the system that upholds those beliefs, we can start to create change.
“What kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?” the President asked. “All of us have to make sure that all of our young girls know that we’re invested in their success.”
Along with the aforementioned initiative, the President also said the White House will host a summit called “The United State of Women” in May of this year; and made an additional push for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. You can watch the entirety of his address for yourself below.
(Image via Brendan Smialowki/AFP/Getty Images, Mark Wilson/Getty.)