Days after issuing a bland statement supporting women’s equality, the Trump administration halted a key equal pay initiative on Tuesday put in place by the Obama administration.
The scrapped provision would have required employers to report aggregate information on how much they pay workers ― broken down by gender, race and ethnicity ― and would have been a critical first step in figuring out the scope of the pay gap at different companies.
Instead, the Office of Management and Budget said in a memo this week that it was halting implementation so it could review the provision, citing concerns about paperwork and privacy.
Ivanka Trump, who speaks frequently about the importance of equal pay for women and who promised last summer that her father feels similarly, issued a statement supporting the move.
“Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results,” Trump said on Tuesday. “We look forward to continuing to work with [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], [the Office of Management and Budget], Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”
She offered no further explanation for the administration’s action or her endorsement of it.
Women’s groups universally decried the move.
“This is not a technical tweak as they would have you believe. Make no mistake— it’s an all-out attack on equal pay,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Today’s action sends a clear message to employers,” Graves added. “If you want to ignore pay inequities and sweep them under the rug, this Administration has your back.”
They also took aim at the president’s eldest daughter for betraying her purported commitment to working women.
“For somebody who has long held herself out as a champion for women and for gender equality, it’s really disappointing,” Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policy and strategy at the National Partnership for Women and Families, told HuffPost on Wednesday.
“[This] spits in the eye of gender equality and in the eyes of women and people of color who are so often paid less and do not know.”
On average, women in the U.S. are paid 80 cents for every dollar men earn, according to federal data. The pay gap for women of color is even worse. Hispanic women earn 54 cents on the dollar, while black women make 63 cents. Even when researchers analyze the data and account for differences in education and time spent in the labor force, the wage gap persists.
Interestingly, Ivanka Trump’s book, a bland treatise called Women Who Work, mentions the term “equal pay” only once, focusing more on individual moves women can make to achieve success in the workplace. “When you’re passionate and work hard you can achieve great things,” she writes.
But even when a woman is going full-steam ahead at work, she may not realize that her male peers are out-earning her. After 19 years as a manager at a Goodyear plant in Alabama, Lilly Ledbetter famously found out she had been making less than her male colleagues after someone sent her an anonymous note. Her lawsuit led to the passage of equal pay legislation in 2009.
Employers are now required to report information about the race, ethnicity and gender of their employees. Starting a few years ago, tech companies have made their Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports public, which has led to a painful ― but fruitful ― discussion about the lack of women in the tech industry.
It’s easy to imagine how pay data would’ve advanced the conversation even further and made it easier for federal regulators to spot patterns of discrimination.
“Having pay data in summary form will help us identify patterns that may warrant further investigation,” the former chairwoman of the EEOC said last year at a conference in New York. In the past, she said, “we’d learn about a pay-discrimination problem because someone saw a piece of paper left on a copy machine or someone was complaining about their salary to co-workers.”
Companies with more than 100 workers were set to receive a new form to report the data in September and start providing more detailed information to the EEOC in 2018.
Most employers were already preparing to file this data, according to Shabo. Indeed, in recent years, activist shareholders have been pressuring public companies to report data ― a few companies, including Apple and Amazon, have started opening up about gender and pay.
Stopping the Obama administration provision from going into effect was the result of an orchestrated effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the federal contractors business lobby and anti-worker and anti-regulatory senators on the Hill, Shabo said.
It’s even more disappointing because the provision already represented a compromised effort, she added. “It wasn’t as comprehensive or as detailed as we would’ve liked. This was something that was put together with the ease and efficiency of the employer community in mind.”
Still, there had been rumors since January that this would happen, and it’s hard to be surprised that the White House, which has been openly hostile to women’s rights ― by rolling back provisions on contraception and reinstating harsh restrictions on women’s health around the world ― would make such a move.
“This is not a woman- or family-friendly administration,” Shabo said.