To Close the Gender Wage Gap, Start Here

It's exciting that President Obama wants to narrow the gender wage gap, as was widely reported. Here's a good first step: updating federal contracting regulations. It hasn't been done since Jimmy Carter was in office and an overhaul is long overdue. 

For example, when Metropolitan Congregations United campaigned to get more minority and women workers hired on the $535 million dollar rebuild of I-64 project in St. Louis, they ran up against the outdated regulations that allowed little room for ambitious workforce diversity goals. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) got creative, and with input from MCU, union officials and others created a work-around. More than 20 community partners signed a ground-breaking Community Benefits Agreement with MODOT that included stretch goals and $2.5 million dollar budget for training and support. When I-64 reopened in 2010, minorities and women had put in 27 percent of the work hours, the best workforce diversity record on a highway project.

Gamaliel and other groups are leading a campaign to update the regulations, detailed on Rooflines last month.   
Would we put up with 30 year old regulations for our schools, the Food and Drug Administration, or for social service programs? It's a ridiculous thought. Yet regulations that haven't been changed since 1980 are short changing women and minorities every day.

So when President Obama pledges to improve the economic plight of women, this is where he should start.

Your pen (and the women who probably helped to manufacture it) are waiting Mr. President.

Laura Barrett is the executive director Interfaith Worker Justice.


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