WASHINGTON – Women in the U.S. must work until March 15 to be paid the same amount men were in the prior year. This unequal burden on women – especially on women of color – reflects the distance that remains before we achieve an inclusive economy with good jobs for everyone. Among other health, security and education inequities, this economic disparity drove the Biden-Harris administration’s creation of the Gender Policy Council, which has led a historic effort to dismantle these structures of inequality.
“Equal Pay Day is a concept intended to get us thinking differently about how insidious the pay disparity between men and women really is – and to get us motivated to remedy it, once and for all,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Gender inequality shows up everywhere in our society, but its expression in the workplace is striking in its fundamental unfairness. The Department of Labor has long been a leader in combating that inequality, and we continue to find new ways to understand and address it, as we are doing today by releasing new research.”
The pandemic complicated this dynamic, laying bare some of the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap. One of these is the reality of occupational segregation, whereby women are concentrated in certain occupations that pay lower wages. And the occupations and industries where women are most concentrated experienced greater job losses during the pandemic industries.
To better understand how this impacts women, the department has produced “Bearing the Cost: How Overrepresentation in Undervalued Jobs Disadvantaged Women During the Pandemic,” a report on women’s employment impacts during the pandemic and the role of occupational segregation being released today.
The report newly finds that segregation by industry and occupation cost Black women an estimated $39.3 billion, and Hispanic women an estimated $46.7 billion, in lower wages compared to white men in 2019.
“Occupational segregation is a long-standing driver of gender and racial inequality in the workplace, but the COVID-19 pandemic exploded many of its outcomes, causing real economic harm to working women and their families, especially women of color,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “We encourage our partners and coalitions working throughout the country to use the occupation segregation data contained the department’s report to accelerate and strengthen their work.
The department is committed to addressing occupational segregation by supporting women entering male-dominated fields, raising wages and job quality especially in women-dominated jobs, and ensuring racial and gender equity in all jobs. To achieve this, the report includes a series of recommendations for action, such as:
Creating more equitable educational and training opportunities for women to enter non-traditional fields through pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.
Increasing access to policies that support workers with caregiving responsibilities, like paid leave and childcare.
Building worker power by supporting workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain.
Addressing discrimination and harassment in workplaces.
These actions are key components of the department’s Good Jobs Initiative, an effort Secretary Walsh announced in January 2022 to provide critical information to workers, employers and government entities as they seek to improve job quality and create access to good union jobs – free from discrimination and harassment – for all workers and job seekers.
Learn more about the Women’s Bureau.