Gender pay gap persists in the federal workforce
- By Natalie Alms
- Dec 04, 2020
The gender pay gap among the federal workers has decreased since 1999, but women of color experience the gap disproportionately, according to a Dec. 3 report by the Government Accountability Office.
The report said that more complete data is needed on career advancements to address potential barriers among certain groups of women.
The federal government is the largest employer in the country. Within its workforce, the gender pay disparity decreased by 12 cents on the dollar from 1999 to 2017. In 2017, the gap was 7 cents on the dollar, with women earning 93 cents for every dollar earned by men. On average, women earned $80,213 in 2017, while mean earned an average of $86,301.
Measurable factors that affect pay, like education status or job occupation, can't account for most of this current gap, according to the report. Instead, the majority of the gender pay disparity among feds – 6 or 7 cents on the dollar – is "unexplained." It could be caused factors not in the data, including discrimination, individual choices, parental status and non-government work experience, according to the report.
Disparities among racial and ethnic groups exist in the overall gap and the portion of it that is unexplained. Compared to white men, the gap for Hispanic and Latina women, Black women, American Indian and Alaska Native women was from 9 to 12 cents. For white women, that gap was 7 cents, and for Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, it was 4 cents.
The pay gap was also higher for women with lower education levels, for those with more time working in government and for those in blue collar jobs. Its size also ranged among agencies: it was generally smaller in agencies with larger shares of women in their workforce.
However, the GAO included a note of optimism about the future. The unexplained gender pay gap in 2017 was smaller among recent hires, including women of color. This "could indicate that the gender pay gap in the federal workforce will narrow further in the future."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission collects data on promotions, but the GAO report stated that that most recent data from 2017 is incomplete, "which limits the extent to which EEOC and agencies can use them to identify and help address any barriers to promotion for certain groups." The report called on EEOC officials to follow up with agencies on missing data points.
Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.