When all people know their country is invested in their success, we are all better off. Together, we must rid our society of the injustice that is pay discrimination and restore the promise that is the right of every American: the idea that with hard work, anyone can reach for their dreams and know no limits but the scope of their aspirations.
Today -- April 12 -- is Equal Pay Day. What does that mean exactly?
In the U.S., the typical woman who is working full-time still earns just $0.79 for every 41 a man earns. That gender pay gap is even larger for women of color, and can result in the loss of hundred of thousands of dollars over a woman's lifetime.
In short, this is less a day to celebrate and more a day to recognize that work remains to make equality a reality for millions of women across the country.
Since taking office, President Obama has made equal pay a top priority. Here's a few of the steps he's taken to make progress on that goal:
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed on January 29, 2009, is the very first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law. The law, named after a woman who discovered her employer was paying less than men doing the same job, makes it easier for women to effectively challenge unequal pay. The law amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so that unfair pay complaints can be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck -- and that 180 days resets after each paycheck.
In his first official State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged to crack down on violations of equal pay laws. So he created the National Equal Pay Task Force that year to bring together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management to help understand the full scope of the wage gap, to enforce laws already prohibiting pay discrimination, and ensure the employees and employers are educated on their rights and obligations with respect to wage discrimination.
You can read the Task Force's full report here.
In 2014, President Obama used his own executive authority to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation. It provides a critical tool encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek the appropriate remedies.
The Obama administration is working to annually collect summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from businesses with 100 or more employees. This step will cover 63 million employees and help focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws and provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and professions.
The President has taken a number of steps within his power to help narrow the wage gap between men and women in this country -- but he cannot accomplish this alone. That's why he's calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act -- commonsense legislation that updates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.
When President John F. Kennedy signed the original Equal Pay Act into law, women were paid 59 cents for every dollar paid to men. After more than 50 years, that gap has narrowed to 79 cents. We need to close this gap for good. As President Obama said in a State of the Union Address,
It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
You can learn more about what President Obama is doing to make progress on equal pay and other issues that matter to women and families here.