On Tuesday, March 15, President Joe Biden marked Equal Pay Day by signing an executive order that highlights steps for closing the pay gap for government employees and contractors. He also urged privately held companies to do the same during an event attended by the cabinet members, captains of industry and even players from the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team (who just won a $24 million settlement to equalize pay between them and the men’s team).
“It’s my hope that it sets an example for all private companies to follow as well,” Biden said after signing the executive order. “Gender equality is not a women’s issue alone. It benefits everybody.”
New initiatives highlighted
One of the initiatives the president supports was to ban the practice of reviewing previous salary history, and he directed the Office of Personnel Management to consider a new regulation on this matter. Biden’s Labor Department also announced a directive to encourage federal contractors to audit payrolls, to root out pay disparities based on gender, race and other protections covered under Title VII.
Still a gap to close
The gender-based pay gap is currently the smallest ever. However, the pandemic artificially spurred this because women earning higher wages were more likely to remain in the workforce, while lower-income workers lost work or were forced into care for family members. According to recent studies, there are 1.1 million fewer women in the workforce today (either working or looking for work) than working in the pre-pandemic times two years ago. The rates were higher among minorities.