President Obama Plans Two Executive Orders to Boost Equal Pay for Women

For Equal Pay Day, the day on the year’s calendar that marks the approximate extra time the average American woman would need to earn as much as the average man did in the prior year, President Obama plans to bypass the "do-nothing" Congress to promote equal pay with two new executive actions.

The first, according the LA Times, is an executive order, that will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about how much money they make.

The second order is a presidential memorandum that "will require contractors to report data to the government showing the compensation they provide their employees by sex and race."

As Lily Ledbetter's story has shown us, one of the major problems in enforcing equal pay is that there is so much secrecy behind what people are paid. Ledbetter worked as an area manager at a Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama for nineteen years, and part of her contract made it forbidden to discuss the details of her pay with other employees. As she approached retirement in 1998, however, an anonymous tipster alerted her to an alarming fact: despite receiving a “Top Performer” award in 1996, she had been making far less than her male colleagues for the entirety of her employment at Goodyear, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of her career.

Her crusade to remedy the gender-based pay discrimination that she suffered during that time received national attention, and her activism led to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.

Women continue to only make an average of 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. 

Photo: Getty Images