August 26, 2016

Women’s Equality Day: Obama calls for action on pay, childcare, and parental leave

Barack Obama has called for further progress on equal rights for women, including measures to tackle the gender pay gap, in a proclamation marking Women’s Equality Day in the US.

In the proclamation, Obama said: “We must strengthen paid sick, maternity, and family leave—too many families are forced to make difficult choices between caring for a newborn and receiving a paycheck, or staying home to help a sick child or parent and keeping their job. And we must continue striving for fairness and opportunity when it comes to improving workplace policies, because we know that when women succeed, our economy and our country succeed.”

He also called for better access to healthcare and abortion, measures to protect transgender women from discrimination and violence, and steps to help women of color progress in education and employment.

He noted that: “Underrepresented in management positions, underfunded as entrepreneurs, under-encouraged in STEM fields, and confronted with higher levels of unemployment, women and girls of color still face very real challenges, significant opportunity gaps, and structural barriers.”

According to data published by the Economic Policy Institute, the gender pay gap in the US—while still significant—has narrowed in recent decades, although this is largely due to a fall in men’s wages rather than an improvement in women’s.

But at the same time, the pay gap for African American women has grown: in 2015, black women’s wages were 66% of white men’s, compared to a gap of 77% for white women.

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 every year in the US, and marks the anniversary of female suffrage in 1920.

Solomon Polachek has written for IZA World of Labor about equal pay legislation and the gender pay gap. He argues that equal pay policies based on wage outcomes have had little effect on the gender pay gap, but policies that promote the accumulation of human capital have been more successful. He writes that: “economic policies that promote even greater lifetime work for women can successfully reduce the gender wage gap further.”

Related articles:
Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap by Solomon W. Polachek
Do childcare policies increase maternal employment? by Daniela Vuri
Parental leave and maternal labor supply by Astrid Kunze
Explore more IZA World of Labor content on gender equality