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Equal Pay Day, the Wage Gap, and the Obama Administration

This week womens' groups and the Administration marked the passage of Equal Pay Day, the day advocates say is when the earnings of female workers equal the earnings of male workers from the previous year based on the gap between the wages of men and women. In recognition of the day, the Administration released a variety of update reports, statements, and new resources. 

The President proclaimed April 17, 2012 "Equal Pay Day" in recognition saying "working women are at the heart of an America built to last. Equal pay will strengthen our families, grow our economy, and enable the best ideas and boldest innovations to flourish -- regardless of the innovator's gender." In concert with the proclamation, the Administration released a report outlining the achivements of the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force including the education and outreach efforts taken by the members of the Task Force and the training and enforcement efforts which have resulted in the EEOC obtaining $62.5 million in monetary relief through administrative enforcement for victims of sex-based wage discrimination.

In addition, the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis released a statement saying "Women now make up nearly half of the nation's workforce, and 60% of all women work full time...Pay equity is not simply a question of fairness; it is an economic imperative with serious implications not just for women, but for their families, their communities and our nation." The DOL also released the winners of their pay gap mobile application challenge. Finally, they are also hosting an Equal Pay Twitter Chat with members of the President’s National Equal Pay Task Force including: the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can use the hashtag #equalpaychat to follow along or participate.

The view of the pay gap as reflected by the Administration is a not a view that is universally shared. Some point to the fact that the statistic most commonly cited as the pay gap (women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns) isn't comparing apples to apples. That is to say, it's not comparing two similarly situated co-workers of different sexes, working in the same industry, performing the same work, for the same number of hours a day. It's just comparing the median wages for all male workers and all female workers. Proponents of this view claim that it is not inherent discrimination that causes the gap in wages; it's the choices made by female workers.

So what do you think? Is there a pay gap caused by discrimination or is it a reflection of the different choices made by male and female workers?


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of WorldatWork.

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Fri April 20, 2012 11:33 AMReport Abuse
E Brennan
Senior Associate
Member Since: 4/19/1979
Comments: 590


Last word on both both questions was this http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimComment?id=38793 joint Workspan Comparable Worth article of July 2010.