The federal wage gap is slightly better than the gap for all employees in the US – federally employed women earn 89 cents for every dollar men earn, instead of 77 cents. I know, winning!
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a joint memorandum Tuesday committing to “ensure the most rigorous possible enforcement of our federal equal pay laws,” as the Washington Post reports.
Representatives from EEOC and OPM are working with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “to identify the reasons for this wage gap and ways to close it.” The GAO says 7 cents of the 11 cent wage gap still can’t be explained after controlling for factors like occupation, experience and education levels. So we’re talking about plain old gender discrimination in federal employment, even when we factor out the different careers men and women are socialized to pursue as well as discrimination in school and past job opportunities.
A focus on closing the federal gender wage gap could be a huge win in a number of ways. Obviously female federal employees stand to benefit, but so do private sector workers if companies learn from the government’s example.
While the Obama administration has been criticized for slow action on a lot of key progressive issues related to gender and sexuality, they have moved government agencies to take positive actions for federal employees. These wins, like new guidelines protecting transgender federal employees, are less flashy than overturning DOMA or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but certainly important. A focus on equal pay by the federal government is another victory.