WASHINGTON — Add pay equity to President Barack Obama’s 2014 do-it-himself wish list.
The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year’s midterm election.
Obama is hosting at least 10 Democratic female lawmakers at the White House Wednesday as his Council of Economic Advisers issues a report decrying a gender wage gap. The report highlights that full-time working women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workforce, despite surpassing men in obtaining college degrees and making inroads into traditionally male-dominated occupations.
The White House said the economic issues facing women and families will be addressed at a Working Families Summit the president will headline on June 23 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel, co-hosted by the administration and the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. The summit was announced as part of Obama’s State of the Union address in January, when he declared “when women succeed, America succeeds.”
The White House says ballots cast this fall by single women in particular will help determine which party performs best in the election. They argue the president’s focus on raising the minimum wage, which faces opposition in Congress, is particularly important for those voters, especially those trying to support a family.
“That will help so many women participate as they’re increasingly breadwinners in families,” Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “In the 21st Century, why aren’t women earning equal pay? So how can we close that pay gap?”
Republicans point out that the White House has its own pay gap — an analysis of staff salaries done last fall by the conservative American Enterprise Institute found the president’s female aides were that paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to men, about $65,000 to $73,729 annually. The White House responds that men and women in equivalent roles at the White House earn the same amount and that a majority of department heads are women. However, the 77-cent gender gap that Obama is criticizing is calculated workforce-wide, and does not represent a comparison of equivalent positions.
The report by the White House Council on Economic Advisers says Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would shrink the gender wage gap by nearly 5 percent, since women are more likely to earn minimum wage. The report says women account for a rising share of family income, with married women’s earnings on average nearly 45 percent of total family earnings in 2013.
The report says although women have increasingly entered traditionally male-dominated fields like medicine, law, management and science, even those women with advanced degrees begin to fall behind their male colleagues in earnings by their late 30s. And women are still concentrated in low-wage sectors of the workforce like health care support and personal care, the report says.
Jarrett said workplaces need to be restructured to attract and retain women, including working mothers and those caring for aging parents. She said the White House is looking at how to support employers that provide flexibility for workers, especially those with children.
“What do we do to restructure our work environment so that we can be competitive, so that businesses can attract and retain talent, so that women don’t just participate for a short period of time and peel off? We want them fully engaged. We are not going to be able to be globally competitive if half of our population is on the sidelines,” she said.
The White House says this summit’s summit will address workplace flexibility, along with paid leave, equal pay, family and medical leave, sick days, workplace discrimination, career advancement, worker retention and promotion, opportunities for low-wage workers, elder care, childcare and early childhood education. Companies with family-friendly policies will be highlighted as an example.