Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Equal Pay App Challenge Announcement
Washington, D.C., January 31, 2012
Good afternoon, and thank you for joining me on the call. Last Tuesday in his State of the Union address, President Obama recognized that an economy built to last is one where we "encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country."
And the President stressed that means women should earn equal pay for equal work. Women have made real strides in this area since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, but we still have work to do.
Back then, women earned just 59 cents on the dollar for every dollar paid to men. Today, nearly 50 years later, women are paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to men doing comparable jobs. For women of color and those with disabilities, the pay gap is even wider. It's about 70 cents on the dollar for African-American women. It's about 60 cents on the dollar for Latinas. And men of color are also vulnerable to pay disparities.
Let's put this in perspective: The gender pay gap means that each time the average woman starts a new job, she starts from a lower base salary. Over time, that pay gap becomes wider and wider. For the average working woman, it means $150 less in her weekly paycheck. It means nearly $8,000 less at the end of the year.
If you look at a woman's earnings from the start of her career to the end of it, she stands to lose $380,000 over her lifetime because of the pay gap. This problem doesn't just affect women. It affects people of color, and it affects their families particularly those headed by single moms.
As Lilly Ledbetter reminded us, 20 cents less on the dollar adds up for women. It's 20 percent less food they can put on the table. It's 20 percent less that they can spend on their kids' education. It's 20 percent less to pay the gas bill. And it means reduced pensions and diminished Social Security benefits for millions of workers.
The bottom line: When any worker starts at a disadvantage, they stay at a disadvantage. And America loses.
Women make up nearly half of the American labor force. Mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two thirds of all families. Our pay gap is a sad relic from an earlier age before pioneers of the women's movement and the civil rights movement demanded equality.
All American citizens deserve a fair shot when it comes to getting a job, getting promoted and getting paid fairly. Congress enshrined this value into law in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It outlawed pay discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion or national origin.
The President spoke about core American values in the State of the Union, and "equal pay for equal work" is fundamental to giving our workers a fair shot at success. Pay and promotions should be based on merit. They should be color blind and gender neutral. Not some of the time, but all of the time.
President Obama has been focused on this issue since he was elected. In his first year in office, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make it easier for workers to seek remedies for pay discrimination in court. He created the National Equal Pay Task Force, so some of the brightest minds in government can keep moving the ball on this issue. The President increased the budgets of several key agencies charged with combating this problem through tough enforcement.
This includes the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the EEOC, and the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. OFCCP has jurisdiction over any company that does at least $10,000 of business with the federal government. All together, that's about 200,000 businesses that employ nearly a quarter of the American workforce.
The Labor Department has been ramping up our focus on pay discrimination cases. In 2009, four percent of OFCCP's work involved compensation cases. Last year, the number was up to 20 percent. During my tenure, OFCCP has recovered more than $30 million in back wages, interest and salary adjustments for nearly 50,000 victims of discrimination. And we've negotiated 4,800 job offers for workers who were unfairly subjected to discrimination. But there's more we can and must do.
So today we're taking a step to empower workers to know and assert their rights themselves. The Obama administration believes that knowledge is power, and women can't seek equal pay until they know how much they're worth. The truth is, many women have no idea they're being paid less than men for the same work.
So today we are announcing a contest: the Equal Pay Phone App Challenge. It's a call to action to forge new partnerships with America's technology entrepreneurs who are committed to equality. We're asking individuals and companies to create an "app" to give workers the tools they need to become their own advocates for fair pay.
Contestants are urged to use data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or other public sources to help women see how much they make compared to men doing the same job. This app can help all workers negotiate higher starting pay when they accept a job offer. It can help them know how much of a raise to ask for when they're up for a promotion. And it can help connect young people with mentors or job coaches as they decide what career fields are most lucrative. Our goal is to give women the tools to negotiate what they're worth.
My department and each agency represented on the Equal Pay Task Force are doing all we can within the federal government to ensure women are paid equally. Today, we call on our new partners in the private sector to join us.
At the Department of Labor, we've already created three smart phone apps under my tenure. One app helps hourly employees log their time at work, so they're paid the wages that they're owed. A second app helps consumers patronize companies that treat their workers well. And a third app helps workers in hot conditions protect themselves from heat stroke when temperatures are dangerously high. The Equal Pay Phone App challenge expands our worker protection efforts into the equal pay area. Yes, soon, "There will be an app for that."
Ensuring a level playing field for all workers is part of the public trust we hold, and it's more important than ever in times of economic stress. So I'm excited about this contest. And I'm happy to be joined on the call today by Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Office of the United States.
He will share some additional details on how the Equal Pay App Challenge is going to work.