The White House announced Friday that 29 new private sector companies ― including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Target, Visa and General Motors ― have signed a pledge committing to closing the gender pay gap for their employees.
“Women employees at Apple earn one dollar for every dollar male employees earn,” Apple said in a statement. “We’re now analyzing the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide. If a gap exists, we’ll address it.”
Women working full time in the United States earn an average of 79 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the most recent Census Bureau data. The gap is much worse for African American women, who are paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
While some of the gender wage gap can be attributed to other factors, such as women leaving the workforce periodically to care for children or choosing lower-paying careers, several recent studies have suggested that pay discrimination is still a big problem. A 2014 survey of recent college graduates found that women and men with the same college major and job had an unexplained 7 percent wage gap just one year after graduation. That gap grew to 12 percent over the course of a decade.
Another study found that male doctors with the same “age, experience, specialty, faculty rank, and measures of research productivity and clinical revenue” were paid about $20,000 more a year than their female colleagues.
Democrats in Congress have tried four times to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would impose harsher penalties for pay discrimination and require employers to be able to show that wage gaps between men and women are based on factors other than gender. But Republicans continually block those efforts, criticizing the bill as bad for business and a handout to trial lawyers.
President Barack Obama is now trying to do what he can to close the wage gap without the help of Congress. He signed an executive order in January requiring businesses with 100 employees or more to report their pay data ― broken down by race and gender ― to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And the White House Equal Pay Pledge, which more than 50 companies have signed, engages private sector employers in the effort to reduce the national gender wage gap.
“Towards that end, we commit to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations; reviewing hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers; and embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives,” the pledge says. “We pledge to take these steps as well as identify and promote other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.”
Pinterest, PepsiCo, Amazon, Airbnb, Spotify, and 23 other businesses had already signed the pledge. The more than 50 signatories took the opportunity to outline the many steps they are taking beyond equal pay to ensure equity for women in the workplace. Patagonia, whose CEO is a woman, goes above and beyond for its female employees:
We believe women shouldn’t have to make the unnecessary choice between family and career and they can grow a career at the same pace as a family. At Patagonia, thanks to onsite child care, nursing moms are a few feet away from their babies versus miles apart. New moms and dads take paid time off to bond with and care for infants and families can eat breakfast and lunch together daily. We have an equal number of women and men at every level of the company, including among executive positions and the boardroom. Women and men are paid equally for comparable work. All of these things amount to a work environment where 100 percent of women return to work from maternity leave, 100 percent of dads take paid time off from work to bond with their new babies, and the business thrives as a result of the working families we support in our business.
Obama applauded these companies for leading by example. “We should encourage more businesses to join them,” he said.