Uncle Sam Has Shrunk the Gender Pay Gap Over the Past 20 Years

SoulCurry/Shutterstock.com

The federal government has narrowed the gender pay gap by 17 cents on the dollar among its employees over the past two decades, with women earning 87 cents for every dollar a man earned in 2012, according to a new study.

The pay disparity was even smaller among federal managers and senior executives, the Office of Personnel Management found. The gap was less than 5 cents on the dollar for supervisors and less than 1 cent on the dollar for women in the Senior Executive Service. Still, there are fewer women holding the top jobs in government: Women make up about one-third of the SES.

“We won’t be satisfied until women working in federal jobs earn the same as their male counterparts, at every level,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, in a blog post on the agency’s website. OPM reviewed 37 white-collar federal job categories for the years 1992, 2002 and 2012, receiving responses from 51 agencies. During that time period, the gender pay gap shrunk from 30 percent to 13 percent for white-collar jobs and to 11 percent for General Schedule-only positions.

“While occupational distribution explains much of the pay gap, we are not ruling out the possibility that discriminatory influences played a role in occupational distribution,” the report noted.

Other factors that may have contributed to the existing gap include women’s starting salaries in government, which tend to lag behind men’s by 10 percent on average, according to the study. “Women are overrepresented in occupations with lower maximum salaries and underrepresented in higher-paying occupations, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-related fields,” the study found.

OPM attributed the decrease in the pay gap in part to more women working in professional jobs now than in the early 1990s, and more highly-educated women in the federal workforce. The federal government also appears to have benefited from its foundation in merit system principles and the classification standards program for GS positions established by the 1949 Classification Act.

Overall, U.S. women currently earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to the Labor Department.

The report comes days after President Obama signed two executive orders aimed at closing the gender pay gap in all sectors of the workforce. The first executive order will protect a federal contractor’s right to discuss their pay openly with coworkers. The order will prohibit an employer contracted by the federal government from retaliating against employees who disclose their pay

The second order will enable the government to better track pay information based on race and gender. Obama will direct Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to create regulations that require federal contractors to collect and submit this information, which the agency could then use to enforce existing laws.

The OPM study of the federal workforce also found that the gender pay gap was smaller among younger federal employees. And in all three study years, women received more promotions than men on a percentage basis. In 15 of the 37 occupational groups reviewed, the female average salary exceeded the male average salary.

OPM listed several recommendations and plans of action for decreasing the wage gap and helping more women get into the pipeline for top-paying government jobs, including promoting greater salary transparency for pay scales outside the GS system. OPM said it “strongly encourages agencies with independent authority to establish salary tables or rate ranges to post such salary tables or rate ranges on their public websites with appropriate contact information.” Other steps include working with agencies to review their pay classification systems and helping them conduct their own gender pay analyses to decrease wage disparities.

Obama in May 2013 asked OPM to conduct the study looking at differences in pay among the genders as part of an effort to make the federal government a model of pay equity for the rest of the American workforce.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.