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The Biden Administration's Agenda on Closing the Pay Gap ft. Journalist Paige Smith

Updated: May 9, 2021

Kriti: [00:00:00] Hey guys, welcome to WhyFI Matters. So this past week we officially got a new president, which I'm so excited about. So I wanted to talk more about some of president Biden's potential policies specifically when it comes to gender pay discrimination. And one thing that I'm very, very interested in for those of you don't know, and something that I'm going to speak more about on the podcast is the gender pay gap. So I'm excited for our first episode, sort of introducing this topic and also discussing administrative and political responses to this inequality, which has perpetuated society for way too long. So, on the show today, we have Paige Smith who has started out her career in journalism and reporting and does that Bloomberg law, her articles have been featured in many of the Bloomberg new sites, as well as the Guardian and the Boston Business Journal, to name a few. Today,we will be diving deeper into her recent article called Biden to seek pay data, to help and gender and racial disparities. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Hi Paige. Thank you so much for coming on, WhyFI Matter$ today. I'm super excited to have you here. Like I was saying a little bit before we started recording I'm super passionate about. The gender pay gap and closing this gap. And I'm finally able to have a guest come on the podcast to talk about it. And you've of course, like you said, you've been breathing this field for quite a long time, so I'm so excited to hear what you have to say. So thank you for coming on the show today.

Paige: [00:01:48] Yeah, thank you for having me really excited to chat about it. Kriti: [00:01:52] So I guess first off, before we dive into all the gender pay gap and things like that, can you tell us more about yourself as a teenager and also about your career as a journalist?

Paige: [00:02:06] Yeah, definitely. So I grew up in Rhode Island. I'm the oldest of, I have four younger siblings, so I have a lot of younger siblings and I love to write. And it was kind of a matter of trying to find something that really matched my love for writing, but you know, where I could also have a guaranteed paycheck.

It was a great, you know, my parents like like I said, I went to school journalism school and my parents always said that, you know, we'll let you go to journalism school, but you need to take business classes as well to have an understanding of how the world really works. And if you have ambitions to write about these large businesses and how the world works, you should probably understand them a bit better. And I'm really happy that they, kind of forced me to do that. And I am really grateful that I stayed on that path. So now I've been a reporter in Washington, DC now for two and a half years. I write for Bloomberg law and I'm on the labor and employment desk. So we cover anything related to, the workplace and kind of the intersection of the workplace and any legal issues that might arise. So any emerging issues and a lot of that has to do with discrimination. And that's kind of where the gender pay gap comes into all of this.

Kriti: [00:03:29] No, that's really cool everything that you're doing specifically your career. I like the tie between, you know, business, but also your still able to do what you want to do. You know? Of course this sort of sector impacts every single person, you know, labor and employment. So could you tell us more about what is labor and employment law?

Paige: [00:03:52] Yeah, that's a really good the question. And it was not something that I necessarily you know, aimed to do as a journalist, but I'm really happy that I do cover it because like you said, it touches kind of every corner of your life as a worker. So as soon as you get your first paycheck, you are, falling under a set of local state and federal Laws as a worker. So anything from anti-discrimination laws, they do a lot of coverage in that area. We write on that a lot , you know, wage and hour laws and overtime laws, there were just a lot of, there are a lot of laws and as a worker, you are subject to, you know, you're covered by a lot of them.

Kriti: [00:04:35] And I think understanding them is a huge key. Cause I feel like , I don't know if I go get a job when I'm like 20 , I don't think I'm going to be that focused on like the legal aspects of, you know, getting my first paycheck and doing all of this. I'm just going to be focused more on the actual work. And I think there's a big disconnect there. So I'm really excited to talk about your article, which was in Bloomberg law, and it's called "Biden to Seek Pay Data to Help and Gender and Racial Disparities." So congratulations on this article. It's really great. And. For the listeners after the podcast, you should go read it too. So to start off, what exactly is the gender pay gap?

Paige: [00:05:19] So the gender pay gap is essentially the fact that women on average make 82 cents for every dollar earned by their male coworkers. So women for years and years, and years have been making less than men. And that I say 82 cents, they should give credit to there's a pretty widely cited report by the national women's law center. They pulled data from the US Census Bureau. So if you want to track that data back, that's where it comes from. So I should say too, that, that gap widened significantly for women of color as well. So that's on average for all women, but it's, much worse for women of color as well.

Kriti: [00:06:01] the intersection between gender and race I don't know the exact statistics now, but like you said, it's horrible.

Paige: [00:06:10] quite astounding. I don't also don't have the statistics off the top of my head. I know the 82 cent value, but that report is quite telling.

Kriti: [00:06:20] And so how is this gender pay gap detrimental to how society functions on a day-to-day basis?

Paige: [00:06:28] Yeah, I think that's a good question. I think that it really speaks to equality as society, if you will. There are a number of studies that point to the fact that businesses that are more diverse and there were equality, generally is more prevalent tend to be more productive. So it's, it's the idea that the more we close that pay gap, I would say the closer we are as a society to equality.

Kriti: [00:06:54] Right. And , I feel like there's also a this issue of like women mentally, it's just detrimental because they kind of start to feel, I guess, inferior to men in some cases. And I think there's a good a metaphor or analogy. Brown V board of education, the Supreme court case but it's like, if you keep telling the children that, you know, you can't come to these schools, you have to stay in your own school, white people, white children, are better quote-unquote than you. And like mentally, it's just really detrimental to them. And they're going to start feeling like they're not as worthy when everyone is just equally worthy, you know? And I think that's a big issue. And of course, like you were saying, like economically and for businesses, it also is horrible. Right?

Paige: [00:07:49] Part of it as well as like there's also a stigma around talking about pay. And this kind of comes to the you know, the issue of the government doesn't really collect very much data at this point, or it doesn't collect any data right now on doesn't collect data on pay. And I think that as workers, if there's not as much transparency, for example, if you're still sitting next to someone who, if you're in a private workplace, you might not know how much that person makes, even if you're doing the same job. And you know, as it stands right now as a worker, you're probably not going to ask that person unless there's a different kind of relationship there. So I think that the more that we could, you know, not to advocate one way or the other, but I think that the The more transparency there is the more of those conversations will be less taboo. I know that's the thinking of a number of academics and civil rights folks to have studied this area.

Kriti: [00:08:48] No, that definitely makes sense. So I kind of want to talk more about the differences between a, how. Recently the various administrations that we have and will have, have sort of tackled this issue. So we have the Obama administration, the Trump administration and the Biden administration. So I want to talk about the differences in their approaches, kind of, and that's basically a lot of what your article talks about. So why even. Is the gender pay gap a political issue. And we're seeing it a lot recently, you know, wearing a mask is become political. So like why is paying a person who is doing the same work? Having the same responsibilities. Why is that such an issue?

Paige: [00:09:36] Yeah. It's a tough issue in the sense that there's a lot of history behind it. So I think a key example is so the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that's one of the agencies that I cover has been sort of at the forefront of tackling this issue because at its core, it's a workplace civil rights agency. So. To kind of use that agency as an example , under the Obama administration, there was a pay data collection that was approved. It was set, it was ready to go. And then the Trump administration came in and sort of paused that. So flash forward a few years, there's been a lot of litigation. It's been pretty contentious at times. And a judge essentially said, "no EOOC, you have to collect this data." And there's been a lot of debate too, about the quality of the data, because it's the idea of, okay. So it's one thing to just say, you're going to go out and collect this. Data this information, but it's quite another to actually assess the quality of it. What are you actually going to be doing with this data? What does this data actually tell you? Can you use it? How are you applying it? Because if it's just kind of a. Bunch of numbers and it doesn't really tell you all that much, then it's not necessarily very helpful. So that has been kind of the underlying debate around all of this as well of like, what is the best way to collect this data? So the EOOC, because the judge said you have to collect this data, they did. And now they're, they've tasked this kind of task force, but there were these folks studying this data as we speak and that report on what they learned from the data. If this was a good way to collect it, if they should change some things that's supposed to be done by the end of this year. 2021. So once they get that back, that will potentially, I'm not sure I'm not an agency official. But they have said publicly that that will sort of inform their decision-making process moving forward. So flash forward to now to the Biden administration. They've said in their agenda for women, that this is definitely a high priority for them. The agenda specifically calls out the EEOC pay data collection. So, you know, that's one agency potentially that could kind of lead this charge, but how they're going to do it and when we're going to do it kind of remains to be seen.

Kriti: [00:12:07] Okay. I see. I know, like there's different political ideals. But like why would the Trump administration sort of stop the equal employment opportunity commission? Is it just to sort of stop anything that Obama did or is it just because he believes that it's better? To have wages not transparent and not collect this for some other reason.

Paige: [00:12:34] So the justification that was given was that that form of data collection was not indicative. It wasn't telling it wasn't useful. And it was quite burdensome for employers to fill out that information.

Kriti: [00:12:47] Okay. I see. So I think diving a little more into the, each of the specific administrations starting off with Obama's administration. So you were talking about how private businesses, it's hard to sort of collect data because it's private, but would anybody working for the federal government have access to their wage transparency in their numbers.

Paige: [00:13:14] Yeah. So it's really interesting because the federal government is sort of a different animal. And I should give my colleague Louis, LeBreque, a lot of credit for this story because he kind of, he focuses on the federal workforce. And you know, if you are say, I'll pick on Google. If you're a Google worker, you are employed by a private company. If you're. A worker for the department of agriculture, you work for the government and, you know, there are different laws for federal workers or government workers. There are different laws for private workers there. It's just kind of a, those are different spheres, if you will. But it's interesting because in terms of pay transparency, the government has these pay scales. So there's more. Pay is generally more transparent in the structure, the pay structure overall is more rigid. So say for example, you know, you're in X department and you want to look up what your boss makes and you generally know kind of what step they are on that scale. You have kind of a range of you have a salary range that you could expect, whereas if you're a worker for Google, you potentially have no idea what your boss makes

Kriti: [00:14:28] interpretation of. Whoever's paying you the money.

Paige: [00:14:31] Exactly. Yeah. It's just quite different. So it's. You know, were kind of, I, like I said, the article they're sort of pluses and minuses to that in one way, there's potentially more flexibility and maybe some more negotiating power, but ultimately it is or a number of studies that have pointed out that federal workers, generally the pay gap among federal workers is just smaller.

Kriti: [00:14:56] That's interesting. I didn't know that before. I kind of just clumped everything together. That's pretty interesting. So I know that in 2009, from my eighth grade research paper Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. So could you talk more about this act and was there really any. Did it really do anything landmark?

Paige: [00:15:21] I mean, I think it was a huge deal in the sense that to prohibit sex based pay discrimination is a very big deal on a federal level. And you know, having that law in the books is monumental. Yeah. I think it's definitely a big deal.

Kriti: [00:15:38] Great. And so can we talk about, more about the Biden administration how are the ways the Biden administration is going to address the pay gap and also help women have economic security?

Paige: [00:15:55] Definitely. So I think an important thing also to acknowledge is that. Well, president, Joe Biden will be in the White House. We'll also have vice president Harris, Harris who has, she has really prioritized equal pay and coming from California, which has some of the most strict, equal pay laws in the US that has also informed her background. So that's kind of an interesting kind of tidbit to keep in mind when you think about per sort of agenda overall So, something to check out is the Biden's agenda for women. It kind of outlines a number of these initiatives, but equal pay generally is definitely on there. The pay day to study of some kind is definitely a priority for the incoming administration, but there are also other areas that could really be improved that could really that they have said could improve the economic opportunities for women. Another area that they're iron eyeing for example is procurement. So. You know, the government is a pretty massive company itself. It spends a lot of money every year on a lot of different things and gives a lot of companies money. So for supplies and services and construction and sort of you name it. So there have been There are a number of proposals to make that process more equitable and inclusive for women and people of color and all sorts of folks.

Kriti: [00:17:29] So you said procurement, right?

Paige: [00:17:31] Yep. General contracting, essentially. You know, any sort of business that works with the government. So say you are. You know, Sally's paper towels, and you provide all of the paper towels to whatever office buildings in Washington, DC, federal contracts. Those are, those are federal dollars that are going towards that and say, you know, your Sally is a woman. It's been a woman owned business since 1955. And you know, Sally wants that federal contract because it's quite lucrative and. Yeah, so to boost those opportunities, basically.

Kriti: [00:18:11] that's really cool. Cool So I know part of Biden's agenda for women is to make it easier for women to organize unions and collectively bargain. So what is the important of this sort of strategy to help economic security?

Paige: [00:18:28] Yeah. So there are a number of initiatives related to labor unions that Biden in particular is trying to champion Biden has a long history and relationship with labor unions. So it sort of makes sense that it's part of his agenda. He's also named mayor of Boston mayor, Marty Walsh to be his labor secretary and mayor Walsh also has quite a history with labor unions in the Northeast. So it's definitely something to watch, I think, in terms of specific agenda items. I would definitely recommend checking out my colleague Ian he does some really great union specific reporting. But there are a number of items to watch. One of which is I think it's the fight for 15, that is really pushing for an initiative.

Kriti: [00:19:14] And so I guess what would be your overall opinion on how the next four years of Biden's administration in relation to how he's going to help close the pay gap?

Paige: [00:19:30] I'm not going to give my opinion per se, but I will say that there are definitely going to be some things to watch. Wait for that EEOC report, that's due to be released at the end of this year and see what initiatives that agency takes on. So it's technically a quasi independent agency of the white house. So there's been more independence there. But they've said they're going to do it. And that's something to monitor. Another agency is I would closely watch the labor department to see what. What stances they're going to be taking one agency within the labor department that I cover has to do with federal contracting. And as compared to other agencies, they have a lot of power to look at pay data, and they've brought a number of pay discrimination cases against really high profile companies. So I wouldn't be surprised if the. Biden administration. And they've said that federal contracting and sort of making that whole process more equitable is a priority of their, so I wouldn't be surprised if that was an agency that was really tapped to do some big things.

Kriti: [00:20:42] And I feel like we've, we're talking a lot about pay data and I think we touched a bit on this in the beginning about the importance. Of these numbers, but like you were saying, I can get a list of any numbers, you know, but what exactly do people necessarily do with these numbers?

Paige: [00:20:59] there was a really great quote from a research that it researcher that I interviewed. And it's the idea that you can't make decisions without data. It's the idea that if you don't have, and you really can't make decisions without good data. So it's just the idea that there, if you have more information, you were armed with your arms to make better decisions overall.

Kriti: [00:21:22] What, what would your, I guess solution be to close the gap?

Paige: [00:21:28] That's a really good question. I think there are very smart people in the federal government who are on the right track. And like I said, there have been a number of previous attempts to address this and different ways to do it. And I think that folks are still trying to figure out the answer to that question. So I will not pretend to be an expert on this. I am only an observer and I think that there are folks working on answering that question as we speak.

Kriti: [00:21:58] Do you think that if we got more women to be financially literate or just even men in general, like anyone just improving financial literacy rate, do you think this could also kind of be a solution to close the gender pay gap?

Paige: [00:22:14] Well, I can speak based on my personal experience and the fact that my parents have always been very open with conversations. They've been very open with me about financial conversations, and I'm really grateful for that. It's, you know, as compared to some of my friends who are also in their mid twenties and kind of starting out in their careers, I'm very lucky to have sort of had a leg up by just having those conversations because. I know what to expect versus some of my friends who were just having to learn what to expect all on their own. So I think that the more conversations that everyone can have about financial literacy, the better everyone is off. It's sort of like giving someone an owner, you know a user manual or a handbook, if you will, of how to put a piece of furniture together, versus just giving them the piece of furniture and saying have fun. That's kind of what I think about with a paycheck. You are just handed a chunk of money and said, you know, told good luck. And I hope you figure out how to allocate it correctly and be smart about it. But if you don't know how to do that, and you don't, haven't had those conversations that is very challenging for a lot of people.

Kriti: [00:23:29] No, that's a great analogy. And I think finally, what would be your advice to your 16 year old self? And it can be in terms of anything.

Paige: [00:23:40] My advice to my 16 year old self is to not buy as much iced coffee. I would've bet I would've been a millionaire by now if I didn't no kidding, but no, it's really true. It's kind of like a common thing that you hear of like, just really think through your purchases, but yeah, I don't think it's really, you're never too early to start saving and I can hear like my dad's voice just like yelling at me about that. But it's really, really true. And. You know, when you're younger and you're just kind of starting out costs, add up really quickly. And when you move into your first apartment and you have to buy a bed and get spoons and you want coffee, all of those things cost money. And I think that, that people don't really talk about talk with kids who were in high school, kids who were just getting out of college about. All of those little things and, you know, if I were 16, my parents would also really encourage me to work in high school. So I was grateful to have kind of that work experience going into college. And again, like where did that money go? I have no idea. Honestly, probably ties coffee. Like, it's just ridiculous, but I don't know. I also had a really great. You know, experience, and I'm really lucky that I was able to have such a great childhood. So Yeah, that's kind of my advice to my younger self.

Kriti: [00:25:09] That's amazing. And of course your article, you've written many articles. Your job is really, really cool. But yeah, thank you so much for coming on WhyFI Matter$ and I think it's nice to have a fresh perspective on the show because a lot of. The listeners are teenagers millennials gen Z, and I think it says out here from someone like you, who's been kind of researching these really important topics, such as the gender pay gap. So for the listeners, we'll definitely talk more about this, cause we can go like on and on about this issue and closing the gap in the future. But yeah. Thank you so much, Paige, for coming on the show.

Paige: [00:25:51] Thank you so much for having me. It was great to chat.

Kriti: [00:25:54] So that's the end of the interview and it was so much fun to get to know Paige and talk to her about her career path and also about labor and employment, specifically focusing on wage transparency and how this can affect the gender pay gap.

For more information on Paige I have for Twitter in the episode description, as well as her MuckRack page. I hope that Biden administration will take more strides in closing the pay gap because it really has perpetuated society for way too long. And it's just been really detrimental and has caused so much harm to millions and millions of families.

Also, we are just getting started into our gender pay gap related content. So let us know if you've read any interesting articles recently about pay disparities so we can dive deeper into it on the show. Thanks for listening. And I can't wait to talk to you next time. Link to journalist Paige Smith twitter account: Paige Smith Twitter:


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