Last week, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act by President Kennedy, President Obama recognized innovators who have used open government data to build tools that address the wage gap.
That gap has grown considerably smaller since the Kennedy era, but it has not disappeared. In 2011, for example, a typical 25 year-old woman working full-time, year-round, will have already earned $5,000 less than a typical 25 year-old man. If that woman were to face the same wage gap for each year going forward, then by age 35 she will have earned $33,600 less than a typical 35 year-old man. By age 65, that earnings gap will have ballooned to $389,300.
To address this challenge, the Equal Pay Task Force and the U.S. Department of Labor put out a call to build applications and tools that use publicly available open government wage data and other online resources to educate users about the pay gap and to promote equal pay. At yesterday’s Equal Pay Event in the East Room of the White House, President Obama recognized innovators Laquitta Martell-DeMerchant and Rachel Koch for developing the application Aequitas and the website Close The Wage Gap. Their products allow anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or computer ton find information on important salary topics such as typical pay ranges, skill level requirements for certain jobs, how to negotiate salaries, and more.
These feature-packed tools would have been difficult to build without access to freely available Federal open government data on wages from across the country. To spur this kind of innovation, the President traveled to Austin, Texas, last month and issued his Open Data Executive Order, which makes open and machine-readable data the new default for government information. Thanks to open data and the innovative work by Laquitta and Rachel, women will have powerful tools available to them throughout their careers as they negotiate starting pay, request promotions or raises, or consider switching fields to more lucrative career paths.
Xavier Hughes is the Chief Innovation Officer of the U.S. Department of Labor
Brian Forde is the Senior Advisor to the U.S. CTO for Mobile and Data Innovation