Kamala Harris hosts US women footballers on Equal Pay Day

US women's national team settled a $24m dispute over equal pay earlier this year

US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials marked Equal Pay Day with a Tuesday afternoon event attended by members of the women's football team.

The event is part of a series of steps the Biden administration is taking that are aimed at ending the gender pay gap for federal workers and contractors.

Mr Biden was set to sign an executive order later on Tuesday that encourages the government to consider banning federal contractors from seeking information about job applicants’ prior salary history, while a new Labour Department directive aims to strengthen federal contractors’ obligations to audit payrolls and help guard against pay disparities based on gender, race or ethnicity.

The Office of Personnel Management is also considering a regulation to address the use of prior salary history in hiring and setting compensation for federal workers.

Equal Pay Day is designed to call attention to how much longer women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Data show that while the pay gap is at its smallest ever, the coronavirus pandemic has altered women's labour force participation so that “what we're seeing is an artificial narrowing”, said Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the National Women's Law Centre.

Last October, the administration issued a national gender strategy to advance women's and girls' full participation in society.

This year, the administration is looking for new ways to combat pay disparities and drawing attention to high-profile efforts to combat the wage gap, such as the women's national football team's $24 million February settlement with US Soccer in a discrimination dispute.

The settlement includes a commitment to equalise pay and bonuses to match the men’s team.

“I think we’re going to look back on this moment and just think, ‘Wow, what an incredible turning point in the history of US Soccer that changed the game and changed the world, really, forever,’” star midfielder Megan Rapinoe said at the time.

There were in excess of 1.1 million fewer women in the labour force in February 2022 than in February 2020, meaning those in this group are neither working nor searching for employment.

In 2020, the average woman who worked full-time all year earned 83 cents on the dollar compared with her male colleague doing the same work, the White House said. The gap is even bigger for black and Native American women and Latinas.

The issue also affects women later in life. A 2020 Brookings Institution study on women's retirement found Social Security benefits for women are, on average, 80 per cent of those for men.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: March 15, 2022, 11:00 PM