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1) FACT SHEET: Biden Harris Administration Announces Commitments to Advance Pay Equity and Support Women’s Economic Security  

2) Executive Order on Advancing Economy, Efficiency, and Effectiveness in Federal Contracting by Promoting Pay Equity and Transparency

Today, as the nation observes Equal Pay Day – the day through which U.S. women typically must work to be paid the same wages men received in 2021 – the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued a new directive to promote greater contractor attention concerning the proactive and effective use of pay equity audits to identify barriers to equal pay in their pay-setting and employment practices.

“The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ directive on pay equity audits is an important measure that will help employers address and prevent pay inequality,” said Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny R. Yang.

“OFCCP is redoubling its efforts to remove barriers to pay equity, and ensuring contractors are complying with their obligation to conduct comprehensive pay equity audits,” Yang added.

OFCCP’s directive also makes clear that if the agency identifies concerns about the contractor’s compensation practices during a compliance evaluation, it may request the contractor’s pay equity audit to verify the contractor’s compliance with its obligation to conduct an annual in-depth analysis of its compensation practices.

Almost 60 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 11246 in 1965, significant gender pay gaps persist. Women who work full-time, year-round in the U.S. typically are paid only 83 cents for every dollar paid to men. The wage gap is even more pronounced for women of color.

As the nation makes critical infrastructure investments, federal contractors have an important role to play in taking proactive action to develop fair pay practices and conduct an annual pay equity audit to identify and correct inequities. OFCCP is committed to working with the contractor community to tackle longstanding pay inequality through unbiased pay setting practices, greater proactive analysis of compensation systems, and transparency in pay equity audits.

The directive aligns with the Executive Order on Advancing Economy, Efficiency, and Effectiveness in Federal Contracting by Promoting Pay Equity and Transparency signed today by President Biden. The Executive Order directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to consider proposing rules limiting or prohibiting federal contractors from seeking and considering information about job applicants’ and employees’ existing or past compensation when making employment decisions.

News release: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ofccp/ofccp20220315
OFCCP directive: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/directives/2022-01

4) DOL Women's Bureau, ‘Bearing the Cost: How Overrepresentation in Undervalued Jobs Disadvantaged Women During the Pandemic’
Women in the U.S. must work until March 15 to be paid the same amount men were in the prior year. This unequal burden on women – especially on women of color – reflects the distance that remains before we achieve an inclusive economy with good jobs for everyone. Among other health, security and education inequities, this economic disparity drove the Biden-Harris administration’s creation of the Gender Policy Council, which has led a historic effort to dismantle these structures of inequality.

“Equal Pay Day is a concept intended to get us thinking differently about how insidious the pay disparity between men and women really is – and to get us motivated to remedy it, once and for all,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Gender inequality shows up everywhere in our society, but its expression in the workplace is striking in its fundamental unfairness. The Department of Labor has long been a leader in combating that inequality, and we continue to find new ways to understand and address it, as we are doing today by releasing new research.”

The pandemic complicated this dynamic, laying bare some of the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap. One of these is the reality of occupational segregation, whereby women are concentrated in certain occupations that pay lower wages. And the occupations and industries where women are most concentrated experienced greater job losses during the pandemic industries.

To better understand how this impacts women, the department has produced “Bearing the Cost: How Overrepresentation in Undervalued Jobs Disadvantaged Women During the Pandemic,” a report on women’s employment impacts during the pandemic and the role of occupational segregation being released today.

The report newly finds that segregation by industry and occupation cost Black women an estimated $39.3 billion, and Hispanic women an estimated $46.7 billion, in lower wages compared to white men in 2019.

“Occupational segregation is a long-standing driver of gender and racial inequality in the workplace, but the COVID-19 pandemic exploded many of its outcomes, causing real economic harm to working women and their families, especially women of color,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “We encourage our partners and coalitions working throughout the country to use the occupation segregation data contained the department’s report to accelerate and strengthen their work.

The department is committed to addressing occupational segregation by supporting women entering male-dominated fields, raising wages and job quality especially in women-dominated jobs, and ensuring racial and gender equity in all jobs. To achieve this, the report includes a series of recommendations for action, such as:

Creating more equitable educational and training opportunities for women to enter non-traditional fields through pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.
Increasing access to policies that support workers with caregiving responsibilities, like paid leave and childcare.
Building worker power by supporting workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain.
Addressing discrimination and harassment in workplaces.

These actions are key components of the department’s Good Jobs Initiative, an effort Secretary Walsh announced in January 2022 to provide critical information to workers, employers and government entities as they seek to improve job quality and create access to good union jobs – free from discrimination and harassment – for all workers and job seekers.

News release: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osec/osec20220315
Report: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WB/media/BearingTheCostReport.pdf

5) BLS, Women in the labor force: a databook (March 2022)

In 2020, the share of women who participated in the labor force fell by 1.2 percentage points to 56.2 percent, the lowest rate since 1987, and nearly 4 percentage points below the peak of 60.0 percent in 1999. By comparison, the labor force participation rate for men was 67.7 percent in 2020, down by 1.5 percentage points from the previous year and the lowest rate in the history of the series. (Both series began in 1948.) The steep declines in 2020 reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market.

The rapid rise in women’s labor force participation was a major development in the labor market during the second half of the 20th century. Overall, women’s labor force participation increased dramatically from the 1960s through the 1980s, before slowing in the 1990s and early 2000s. Labor force participation among women then began a decline that accelerated in the wake of the December 2007–June 2009 recession, hitting a prepandemic low in 2015 at 56.7 percent. The rate then rose to 57.4 percent in 2019, before the pandemic affected the labor market.

Women’s involvement in the labor market has changed in notable ways over the past several decades. For example, women became much more likely to pursue higher levels of education: from 1970 to 2020, the proportion of women ages 25 to 64 in the labor force who held a college degree more than quadrupled, whereas the proportion of men with a college degree more than doubled over that time. Women also have become more likely to work full time and year round. In addition, women’s earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings have grown over time: women working full time earned 62.3 percent of what men earned in 1979 and 82.3 percent in 2020. More recently, over the past decade or so, women in the baby boom generation (defined as people born between 1946 and 1964) began to retire in large numbers, which had put downward pressure on their labor force participation rate.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the job market in 2020 were widespread and varied by gender and across race and ethnicity groups. For example, women were disproportionally affected by the pandemic-induced recession in the spring of 2020, in part reflecting their overrepresentation in some of the hardest hit sectors of the economy.

In addition to the effects of the pandemic, there are long-standing labor market differences among demographic groups. These differences are associated with many factors, not all of which are measurable. These factors include variations in educational attainment, the occupations and industries in which the groups work, the geographic areas of the country in which the groups are concentrated, and the degree of discrimination encountered in the workplace.

This report presents historical and recent labor force and earnings data for women and men from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unless otherwise noted, data are annual averages from the CPS.


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