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Pay gap for women still exists for federal employees

Equal pay for equal work has been in the news this month, with the issuance of two executive orders by the president to address the issue of gender pay equity. It seems unexceptional to argue that workers doing the same work with similar experience should earn the same salary. For decades, there was a significant gap between male and female workers.

Some of this pay inequity in the past was explained by women having less experience and being concentrated in low-pay clerical and minor administrative roles. However, some of it was explained by outright pay discrimination. Today, the Office of Personnel Management reports that the gap in 2012 was at 12.7, as compared to 30 percent in 1992.

While there has been improvement, there still is a gap. When controlling for variations in jobs and other factors, there was still a 3.8 percent gap. This difference is as small as it is only because the federal government has very structured pay system and federal pay rates are public, unlike many private employers, who actively punish employees who speak about their salaries to other workers.

Another reason for the decline is that women have advanced into more professional level jobs within the federal government. As more women obtain these positions, the gap further shrinks.

However, women may still experience denial of promotions and other discriminatory practices. Denial of promotion may force a woman to bring a discrimination lawsuit. Because of the specific requirements that must be met for such a case, many women seek legal counsel to assist with these cases, as failure to follow proper procedures can damage an otherwise valid claim. 

Source: The Washington Post, "Pay gap: How salaries compare by gender for federal employees," Eric Yoder, April 11, 2014

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