Executive Order to Promote Pay Equality for Women

President Obama is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday that would prevent federal contractors from retaliating against employees who exchange information about their salaries.

The order is intended to reduce the gender pay gap among contractors employed by the government. In addition to potentially opening dialogues among colleagues around differences in pay, the president will also require federal contractors to “provide a compensation breakdown by race and gender.”

Fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, which was meant to prevent wage discrimination based on gender, pay disparities motivated by discrimination have proven difficult to regulate and enforcing equal pay laws has been a challenge. Women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Hispanic women, for example, were paid only 53 percent of what white men were paid in 2012.

Fatima Gross Graves, the Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center, applauded the executive action, saying, "These new rules will make it harder for employers to hide pay discrimination."

While some have noted executive orders are often more symbolic measures used to encourage larger change, shining sunlight on the wage gap among federal contractors – who employ close to one quarter of the American workforce – is a strong step forward in realizing the goals of the 1963 Equal Pay Act.

This latest executive order is part of a larger initiative by the White House to ensure 2014 is a “year of action,” in which Americans see access to opportunity broadened, despite apparent gridlock in Congress.

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