Government workforce is closing the gender pay gap, but reforms still needed, report says

15 April, 2014

Women working for the federal government earn less than men overall but the gap is shrinking, and most of the difference is the result of women being concentrated in lower-paying jobs with too few occupying the top ranks, a government report issued Friday found.

The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM hereafter) study showed an overall gender pay gap for white-collar occupations of 12.7 percent in 2012, down from 19.8 percent in 2002 and 30 percent in 1992. OPM did not shy away from highlighting some entrenched and frustrating realities for women in government. It found, for example, that agencies use special authorities to set higher starting salaries when hiring men than when hiring women.

Some of the disparity is based on occupation, the report said, adding that women receive promotions and performance-based increases slightly more frequently. Other factors that may be contributing to the pay gap include work experience, caregiving responsibilities, motivation and performance, OPM said, which originates out from workplace and have deep social roots.

OPM’s report also said that the narrowing pay gap reflects the changing nature of federal employment: a shift away from occupations such as low-paying clerical jobs, disproportionately filled by women, and growth in higher-paying professional and administrative jobs that are increasingly held by women —.

As part of a “roadmap” forward, Katherine  Archuleta (OPM’s Director) issued a memo to agencies telling them to collect data on occupations in terms of grade patterns by gender, review how they classify jobs for pay-setting and publicly post the salary rates of agency-specific pay systems, among other steps.

However, Kopenhaver, Washington representative for Federally Employed Women, stated that “women face many hurdles in getting into the higher-paying jobs”. “That is why we are a little disappointed that in the OPM report just released, no mention is included in the recommendations section of revamping these offices.”

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