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updated: 3/12/2014 2:41 PM

White House promotes economic issues facing women

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  • President Barack Obama greets cashier Sonia Del Gatto at a GAP clothing store in Manhattan during his unannounced shopping visit, Tuesday. The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year's midterm election.

      President Barack Obama greets cashier Sonia Del Gatto at a GAP clothing store in Manhattan during his unannounced shopping visit, Tuesday. The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year's midterm election.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Add pay equity to President Barack Obama's 2014 do-it-himself wish list.

The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year's midterm election.

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Obama is hosting at least 10 Democratic female lawmakers at the White House Wednesday as his Council of Economic Advisers issues a report decrying a gender wage gap. The report highlights that full-time working women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workforce, despite surpassing men in obtaining college degrees and making inroads into traditionally male-dominated occupations.

The White House said the economic issues facing women and families will be addressed at a Working Families Summit the president will headline on June 23 at Washington's Omni Shoreham hotel, co-hosted by the administration and the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. The summit was announced as part of Obama's State of the Union address in January, when he declared "when women succeed, America succeeds."

The White House says ballots cast this fall by single women in particular will help determine which party performs best in the election. They argue the president's focus on raising the minimum wage, which faces opposition in Congress, is particularly important for those voters, especially those trying to support a family.

"That will help so many women participate as they're increasingly breadwinners in families," Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." ''In the 21st century, why aren't women earning equal pay? So how can we close that pay gap?"

Republicans point out that the White House has its own pay gap -- an analysis of staff salaries done last fall by the conservative American Enterprise Institute found the president's female aides were paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to men, about $65,000 to $73,729 annually. The White House responds that men and women in equivalent roles at the White House earn the same amount and that 10 of 16 department heads are women, earning the top White House salary of $172,200. However, the 77-cent gender gap that Obama is criticizing is calculated workforcewide and does not represent a comparison of equivalent positions.

The report by the White House Council on Economic Advisers says Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would shrink the gender wage gap by nearly 5 percent, since women are more likely to earn minimum wage. The report says women account for a rising share of family income, with married women's earnings on average nearly 45 percent of total family earnings in 2013.

The report says although women have increasingly entered traditionally male-dominated fields like medicine, law, management and science, even those women with advanced degrees begin to fall behind their male colleagues in earnings by their late 30s. And women are still concentrated in low-wage sectors of the workforce like health care support and personal care, the report says.

Betsey Stevenson, a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters that the government can help support equal pay and paid leave that will support working women, and the summit will explore more ideas. She noted that other industrialized nations have done a better job of bringing gender equity to the workplace, and that closing the gap in the United States will boost the entire economy.

"Countries that provide more support to working families, more flexible work arrangements, greater access to paid leave, greater access to child care, greater access to early childhood education -- all of those things actually do facilitate women participating to a greater extent in the labor force," she said.

"What we want to do is make sure that we've done as much as we can, that businesses are doing as much as they can to not lose women at those critical moments when they're having children, when they have young children at home," she said.

The White House said administration officials will participate in regional events across the country to explore issues facing women in the workplace in preparation for the summit, which also will showcase companies with family-friendly policies.

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