OPM takes on gender gap in federal pay

Wednesday - 8/17/2011, 6:31am EDT

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The gap in pay between genders is smaller in the federal government than in the private sector, but the Office of Personnel Management and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have reaffirmed their vow to reduce the remaining discrepancy in pay between men and women.

In an OPM release, both offices reiterated their efforts under the 2010 National Equal Pay Task Force to close the gap once and for all.

The government has made progress since the Equal Pay Act was first signed in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy at a time when women received a mere 59 cents on the dollar.

In a 2009 Government Accountability Office review of federal pay, the watchdog agency found that the gender wage gap had declined "significantly" since the late 1980s. For example, in 1987 a woman working in the federal government would stand to earn about 72 cents for every dollar a man earned. In 2007, women were earning about 89 cents on the dollar.

Still, about seven cents of that eleven-cent gap could not be explained by differences in education or years of service, OPM said.

Compare that with the current pay discrepancy for women in the private sector — estimated to be 77 cents on the dollar , with even lower numbers for African American women and Latinas, OPM said.

"Equal pay for equal work is the law, it's right, and its time has come," said OPM Director John Berry in the release, adding that both offices are attuned to making sure federal equal pay laws are adhered to — and for more than only altruistic reasons.

"Ensuring equal pay for equal work without regard to gender, or any other prohibited basis helps us recruit and retain the most talented workforce to serve the American people," Berry said.

In addition, the equal pay task force called on the federal government to serve as a "model employer," in terms of parity in pay.

"We cannot achieve our national commitment to equal employment opportunity until women are included as equal partners in every workplace, including the federal government," said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. "The federal government should be a model employer in every regard — including equal pay."

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