President Barack Obama designated the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington DC as a national monument today, marking Equal Pay Day. He said that he hopes that American children will one day be "astonished" that there was a time "when women earned less than men for doing the same work."

He also paid homage to those who have fought for the equality of women. Injecting race and ethnicity into his equations, Obama said “Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy. It's the idea that whether you are a high school teacher, business executive, or a professional soccer player, or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded whether you are a man or a woman.”

Obama added, “Today, the typical woman who works full time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes. And the gap is even wider for women of color. The typical black woman makes only 60 cents. A Latino woman makes only 55 cents for every dollar that a white man earns. If we truly value fairness, then America should be a level playing field where everyone who works hard gets a chance to succeed."

"I want young girls and boys to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women couldn’t vote," as well as "a time when a woman had never sat in the Oval Office."

"I’m not here just to say we should close the wage gap. I’m here to say we will close the wage gap. And if you don’t believe that we’re going to close that wage gap, then you need to come visit this house."

The gap between earnings according to sex may be smaller if like is compared to like. According to a recent study by Glassdoor, when the earnings of males and females with the same job title, at similar companies and similar levels of experience and education, the pay gap is much narrower than the figure cited by Obama. The study found that women earned 95 cents for every dollar their male colleagues doing the same job were paid. It’s hard to say definitively what accounts for that nickel gap. Some of it may be due to outright workplace bias. The difference may be due to women who negotiate smaller raises than men do, or that some women may negotiate lower salaries in exchange for schedule flexibility  For exampe, a woman who has young children may have a title that reflects her seniority but opts to work for less in order to have time with her children. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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