White House Halts Equal Pay Rule

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Efforts towards providing equal pay between genders were set back on August 28, 2017, when the Trump administration halted an Obama-era rule requiring businesses to report their employees' wages by gender, race, and ethnicity. The administration argued that the data collection requirement would be both "enormously burdensome" to companies and ineffective in addressing the gender wage gap.

Obama established the rule back in 2016 in his efforts to address a wage gap between genders, or a gender-wage gap, in the workplace. Activists have long advocated for regulation in closing the wage gap, often citing a 2015 Pew Research Center study which reported that women earned 83% that of men in median hourly earnings for both full-and-part time U.S. workers.

This rule, set to take effect in 2018, would have provided the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) a report with concrete data and insight on the gender-wage gap, in order to effectively detect and tackle income discrepancies between gender, race, and ethnicity.

Santa Monica students have spoken out against the administration's decision. “This is their way of dismissing the issue of a pay gap," said Jennifer Estrada, a philosophy major. "Society wants proof, and stopping the data collection goes against the will of society, and by keeping the information secretive, they’re protecting the evidence that the gender wage gap exists.”

Yet others understood the administration's reasoning behind the decision. "Trump is going to look for ways to make businesses' lives easier, whether that's right or wrong is a whole other story," said Samantha Carpenter, a nursing student. "Trump is from big business, and he's all about cutting costs for big businesses. Again, not sure that I totally agree, but that's where he comes from."

Halting the rule has put the spotlight on the the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, who, while often expressing support for gender equality, supported the decision. "Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results," Ms. Trump said. "We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap."

Many have criticized Ms. Trump's support for the measure, including president of the non-profit National Women's Law Center, Fatima Goss Graves. "We have seen her say the words 'equal pay' and that she supports equal pay," Graves said. "But halting an equal pay policy, which would have brought transparency and improved enforcement and made employers more accountable - that shows her rhetoric doesn't match reality.”

Others have sympathized with her situation, including Carpenter. "It must be so hard, I can't imagine being in that position, not only because you're working under that presidency, but because it's your father," Carpenter said. "I know that she probably only has so much that she can do, but at the same time I think she does have a fairly big say on things. She seems like she's got her head screwed on and she seems like she cares, but a lot of things have to be let go of because it's her dad, how much can you do?"

The decision was made while advocates allege that the Trump White House itself has a notable gender-wage gap. The Pew Research Center reported on their website the existence of an income discrepancy between Trump's female aides, who make a median salary of $72,650, and his male aides, who make a median salary of $115,000. This 35% pay gap between White House employees, the report states, is more than double the nationwide 17% wage gap, and is, according to the American Enterprise Institute, triple that of former president Barack Obama.

Carpenter looked at both administrations' sides on equal pay. "I have no idea if it's a pro or con, it really comes down to the company and how big it is... then I could see why they would argue it would take too much time," Carpenter said. "But at the end of the day, it needs to come back to everybody's rights, people need to be treated equally, and it needs to be documented that people are doing that."