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Obama plans to fight the gender pay gap, but will it work?

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 2:13 p.m. MDT

The gender pay gap is back in the news, and this time it is President Barack Obama who put it there. (Steve Hix/Somos Images/Fuse, Getty Images/Fuse) The gender pay gap is back in the news, and this time it is President Barack Obama who put it there. (Steve Hix/Somos Images/Fuse, Getty Images/Fuse)

The gender pay gap is back in the news, and this time it's President Barack Obama who put it there.

According to the Associated Press, the president plans to sign an executive order on Tuesday that will “use the federal government's vast array of contractors to impose rules on wages.” Principally, the president plans to curb discrimination in pay and hiring practices by “prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay” as well as directing the Labor Department to implement new rules “requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data” that reports specifically on both race and gender.

“When employees do not know what their co-workers are paid, it can be easier for pay discrepancies between genders or racial and ethnic groups to happen,” Vox Media’s Danielle Kurtzleben wrote on Monday.

Kurtzleben also pointed to a survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that found that close to half of all employers “discouraged or prohibited” their workers from discussing their pay with co-workers.

While Kurtzleben acknowledges that there are arguments in favor of “pay secrecy,” the Obama administration hopes to make advancements in the gender wage gap by eliminating such policies for federal contractors.

According to Forbes’ Caroline Ghosn, younger American women are less concerned about the gap, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics holds that women make 81 cents to a man’s dollar, even though it affects them as much as any generation before.

“The wage gap is about learning to flex our asking muscles,” Ghoson wrote on Monday. “We aren’t getting in shape fast enough.”

Sallie L. Krawcheck, the former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, agrees with Ghoson.

“What I've found over time is that when it would come to bonus time or raise time, I would hear from the gentlemen, ‘I want to make X.’ I don't think I ever heard from a woman who worked for me,” she told NPR. “Research shows men ask and women don't.”

Not asking for a raise (or a higher base salary) is affecting women in more than just basic income disparity with men. According to another report by NPR’s Jessica Glazer, women are feeling the pressure of student loans more than men, and the wage gap is largely to blame.

“Although attending college costs the same for both genders, women are more burdened by student loan debt after graduating,” Glazer said on Sunday. “They spend a higher proportion of their salaries on paying off debt because, well, they have lower salaries to work with than men — from the very start.”

Not only that, but “widening pay gaps have added to concerns about inequality and economic instability,” according to the New York Times’ Deborah Hargreaves. “This is one reason regulators are struggling to find ways of making remuneration fairer or, failing that, enforcing disclosure that shows how unfair it is.”

JJ Feinauer is a Web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: jjfeinauer.

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