The median income for American women who work full time is about $39,600, which is 79 percent of the $50,400 median income for men working full time, according to the White House. We’ve come to know this difference as the “wage gap,” and while it has narrowed somewhat in recent years, it has endured over decades.

On Friday, the Obama administration announced new actions aimed at moving toward equal pay, including an effort to collect information about pay from businesses and government contractors.

“More than 50 years after pay discrimination became illegal it remains a persistent problem for too many Americans,” Jenny R. Yang, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said in a statement Friday. “Collecting pay data is a significant step forward in addressing discriminatory pay practices. This information will assist employers in evaluating their pay practices to prevent pay discrimination and strengthen enforcement of our federal anti-discrimination laws.”

Under a proposal published in the Federal Register on Monday, companies with more than 100 employees will be required to report to the federal government pay data broken down by race, ethnicity, sex, and job category.

“We can’t know what we don’t know. We can’t deliver on the promise of equal pay unless we have the best, most comprehensive information about what people earn,” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said Friday. “We expect that reporting this data will help employers to evaluate their own pay practices to prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces. The data collection also gives the Labor Department a more powerful tool to do its enforcement work, to ensure that federal contractors comply with fair pay laws and to root out discrimination where it does exist.”

In addition, the White House also announced:

  • It is urging Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Among the provisions are penalties for companies that retaliate against employees who share wage information.
  • It will play host to a summit on “The United State of Women” on May 23 in conjunction with the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute, and Civic Nation.  
  • The Council of Economic Advisers has released an issue brief, “The Gender Pay Gap on the Anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” exploring the state of the gender wage gap, the factors that influence it, and policies put forward by the Obama administration that can help address it.

RELATED: Grace and Grit: When Lilly Ledbetter Fought Back

The announcements came on the seventh anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which says that the statute of limitations in pay discrimination cases resets with each paycheck affected by the discriminatory action.

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear and sued the company for pay discrimination after she retired. The Supreme Court ruled in her case that the 180-day statute of limitations began when she received her first paycheck in 1979, even though she said she was not aware of the pay discrepancy then.  This decision planted such an obstacle in the way of women seeking equal pay for equal work that Congress passed, and the president signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

RELATED: Women at Work: A Decades-Long Push for Equity

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  • MaleMatters February 2, 2016 at 8:55 am

    No doubt most pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who’d hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or who’d move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace old workers with young ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

    Many of America’s most sophisticated women choose to earn less than their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.”

    “Female Docs See Fewer Patients, Earn $55,000 Less Than Men”

    “The study found male physicians see about 60% more patients than females do, with men treating an average of 513 Medicare patients per year and women treating 320. Coupled with the fact that male physicians work more hours, this could account for much of the gap. Culturally, this is consistent with other professions, since American women are more than twice as likely to work part-time as men.” – From the liberal, pro-woman Vox:

    “…[O]nly 35 percent of women who have earned MBAs after getting a bachelor’s degree from a top school are working full time.” It “is not surprising that women are not showing up more often in corporations’ top ranks.”

    See how women and men, not employers, create the gender wage gap:

    “The Doctrinaire Institute for Women’s Policy Research: A Comprehensive Look at Gender Equality”