The salary ratio for Black women and other minorities in federal jobs came in far better when compared with the wider economy. 

The salary ratio for Black women and other minorities in federal jobs came in far better when compared with the wider economy.  Rudzhan Nagiev/Getty Images

Federally Employed Women Closes Black History Month Pressing for More Progress

The group can point to more than a half-century of advocacy, but leaders say equity and inclusion efforts remain critical.

Federally Employed Women has been a crucial ally of women in government since 1968.

And just last week, marking the close of this year’s Black History Month, the nonprofit held an event underlining that “equity and inclusion for African American women in the federal government workforce is critical.”

But first, let’s examine the top line. Looking at the average compensation of all women, across the American economy, there has been tremendous progress over the decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1979 (the first year the BLS provided this statistic) the “female-to-male earnings ratio was about 63%—that is, 63 cents on the dollar compared with white, non-Hispanic men. By 1998, that ratio had increased to 76 cents per dollar.

And now? “Women are still earning roughly 82 cents to the same dollar men make,” Ivana Miranda, the communications chair for FEW, told Government Executive.

But, “not much has changed since 2021,” Miranda added.

Still, up from 63 cents to 82 cents on the dollar, on average for all women, is serious progress.

And diving into the stats on African American women, the numbers are significantly less impressive. 

“Black women make significantly less than Asian and White, non-Hispanic women,” Miranda told us. “But more than American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hispanic women.”

In fact, Black women are paid—yep—63 cents on the dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men, exactly the same average for all women way back in 1979, according to FEW. Miranda sourced this statistic to a recent Department of Labor fact sheet.

Most tellingly, the same DOL analysis shows that even controlling for comparable education Black women remain severely underpaid—well below the average pay for women as a whole.

Hence, there is still much work for the group to do.

It should be noted that the pay gap in the federal government paints a better picture, thanks in part to the work of FEW and other advocacy and training organizations for women. A 2020 Government Accountability Office study found that, from the available data, women overall earned 93 cents on the dollar compared with white, non-Hispanic men. However, the same study found that Black women earned only 83 cents. Still, the ratio for Black women in federal jobs, as well as other minorities, came in far better when compared with the wider economy. It should be noted that the GAO study emphasized that agency data collection on this issue is not timely and needs improvement.

FEW’s president, Pamela Richards, is a supervisory investigative research analyst at GAO who said she worked to establish a presence for the Federal Triangle Chapter of FEW and its goals—and integrating those into GAO’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. Richards has also teamed with her agency’s EEO Office and senior level management, “developing EEO and compliance policies as well as the equal advancement of women within agencies.”

More broadly, FEW works for women’s career development—and to support and improve the experience and compensation of women across the federal government, Miranda says, through training, legislative action, and education “on matters related to diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and federal agency compliance to EEO laws.”

Interested feds should have a look at upcoming happenings. For Women's History Month—the month of March—FEW will host “Celebrating the Women that Tell Our Stories (Diversity Webinar),” on March 15. The group’s premiere annual training event, the 54th National Training Program, is scheduled for July 10-14, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio.