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Gender Pay Gap in Federal Workforce Narrows

By Ed O'Keefe

The pay gap between male and female federal government employees has closed significantly in the last 20 years as workers have become more alike in education, experience, and the occupations they hold, according to a report to be released today by the Government Accountability Office.

Women earned 89 cents for every dollar earned by their male co-workers men in 2007, the latest figures available, up from 72 cents in 1988.

GAO said that about half of the gap was due to factors including years of experience and levels of education, but it couldn’t fully account for the remainder of the disparity.

The gap has closed as both genders have shifted away from clerical or blue-collar jobs including typists, clerks and foremen to more professional or administrative positions including accountants, engineers or human resources managers. The shift over two decades is tied to the end of the Cold War and an increased use of technology and government contracting.

The government’s wage gap has also closed as male and female federal employees have achieved similar levels of education in the last twenty years. Forty-four percent of workers had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2007, compared with just a third in 1988. Salaries for both genders have also climbed as the workforce has become more experienced.

The GAO's report neither confirms nor refutes any potential pay discrimination. The federal government’s wage gap is much smaller than the gap for the entire U.S. workforce, which GAO last measured at 20 cents in 2000.

The full findings of the report will be released today by the bicameral Joint Economic Committee, which is holding a hearing to mark Equal Pay Day, an observation organized by women’s rights groups. The groups annually mark the challenges of pay disparity on the first Tuesday of April to symbolize the number of days into the year that a woman must work on average to match the previous year’s earnings of a man.

A similar version of this report appears in Tuesday's Washington Post.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 28, 2009; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Mr O'Keef,
It is no secret that we can either lower the pay of men, or we could raise the pay of women, to achieve the results you discuss. Yet, you choose to ignore these manifest options, reporting only on the mundane options delineated.
In these times, in particular, it would seem that we should consider lowering the pay of men, if the public seeks to "balance" better the pay of women. Of course, this is an option that the politicos would eschew. Should we, then,acquiesce?
During the Great Depression,IAW my father, postal workers took a pay cut. Can you imagine that occurring today? If not, why? It is interesting that we all want pay raises, yet we complain about rising prices! The fact that we can't have both is chilling, to say the least.
Using the power of government to "balance" the pay of men and women is quite inefficient, albeit politically important just when we shouldn't consider raisiing anyone's pay. In the event, we ALL will pay greatly.

Posted by: slp68 | April 28, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

IN the NY Region, the commission of our Agency has a policy of 'no promotions for white men unless there are no viable alternatives' She has stated this explicitly to her selecting officials way up the chain, and the method is this: If a lower level selecting official picks a white guy, and there is a non-white guy available, the selecting official gets grilled on the selection, gets browbeaten to explain if there is bias, and generally gets wrung through the wringer. If it is not a white guy, it just gets a stamp of approval.

This method has been very effective in bringing the regions EEO numbers up.

Posted by: kamdog | April 28, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

It's no secret either that the reason men are suffering so much in the current layoff epidemic is that their salaries are higher. More women are keeping their jobs. However, women are effectively their making even less than before because now they have their own job and that of the guy in the next office or cubicle who's been let go. Double the responsibility - double the hours - same $.89.

Posted by: Dorian1955 | April 28, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse


The men in the NY region need to go find themselves a lawyer.

Posted by: willdd | April 28, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

yeah for the lilly ledbetter law.....
--and minimum wage goes up July 1st.

Women have always been paid less because our societal behavior, instilled throughout centuries, is that men are better than women.

Remember the Inquisition folks.
Women are a threat.
Give them brains and MY GOD, it's World War Three for all those good ole' boys.

So naturally, they must die or never, never be put on YOUR level with a title, pay, respect, or support.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | April 28, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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