Pres. Obama: 'When Women Succeed, America Succeeds'

The president signed an executive order in a push for equal pay on "National Equal Pay Day."
37:57 | 04/08/14

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Transcript for Pres. Obama: 'When Women Succeed, America Succeeds'
This is a special room. Hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York today is known as equal pay day according to the Labor Department. That means a woman would have had to have worked all of last year and then all the way until today to match what the average male -- just last year so President Obama has decided to take the matter into his own hands and assigning two executive orders that he says will close that gender pay gap. For more on the president's efforts I want to bring in ABC's Devin Dwyer at the White House Devin thank you very much. The president is signing two executive -- first of all what are they and what we. The do. I'm -- that's -- the president is going to take action today ahead of the mid term elections on. Really this is an issue that Democrats think it's going to be a winner for them ahead of the mid terms -- coming up in November the president. He's going to sign an executive order. That basically prohibits. Federal contractors from penalized -- their employees who want to talk about their pay with each other. So it's in order that basically says any company that does business with the federal government. Is not allowed to retaliate against their employees if they want to talk about the compensation. Can. The other bill that here the other measure that he's signing as a presidential. Memorandum that is not an order. That's a little bit looser but it basically requires. These contractors that do business with the federal government to report their -- -- based on. Gender and race to the federal government began the interest of transparency so we can see. What these companies are paying men and women -- so want an executive -- the other a memorandum -- also senate Democrats will be introducing their own bill as well the paycheck fairness act. What does that does that have any momentum. That's right this is that coordinated effort today a national equal pay -- is the White -- call that up on the hill they're also taking some action senate Democrats. Pushing this bill that would make it easier for women who feel and men who feel that they've been discriminated against in their -- to sue their employers. Again another rallying call for Democrats Republicans aren't so hot on this legislation they say it's already illegal. For employers to discriminate based on gender that's been the -- for some time now. And they see that these added regulations if you will that's gonna make it more expensive for employers more complicated for employers. And that a lot of this is -- -- about politics Michelle and the president made a similar push for a minimum wage increase bypassing congress for federal workers. -- we should expect the president to use in the future. Well that's in this election year the president is going to be taking some of these. Executive actions were -- executive orders for their presidential memoranda. Or other steps coordinated steps today both on the -- here at the White House to demonstrate to Denver. -- -- -- -- -- Because women are such. Key building block for instance on the 112 elections so. That's what Democrats are going for here in the president as you alluded to various going to be using whatever power he has. To push that ball forward Michelle and we've been watching them file into the east room. The president set to speak in just a short time let's stick with -- a little bit of course Democrats are hoping. To turn this as you mentioned the big issue for the mid terms later this year. What about is there any opposition in this from Republicans are they on -- as well -- what we're hearing from Republicans today Michelle is that it's an all sides believe that there's no question that there is a wage disparity in this country according to Census Bureau. On average nationwide women make 77 cents to every dollar men make. It's kind of a broad catch all figure. -- -- looking at the average if you will for women and men. But Republicans say it's really not as bad as that statistic makes it sound -- -- if you look. At say just among specific jobs the engineers who women engineers in many engineers the gap. Is actually much smaller so for women and men performing the same work the same job. That number is smaller they say -- the aggregate figure shows is really just that women are still. As has been the case for many years now just struggling to get up -- those higher paid professions and occupations. It's assume orbit systemic. Societal issue rather than a discrimination issue I -- business -- business -- And what else are we supposed to hear today from either the president or Democrats or Republicans such -- issue. Well we've heard already from Republicans today on Capitol Hill who said that. Again that this is a lot of politics from the president that they support equal pay but it's a delicate dance that both sides are playing here. Are Republicans feeling a little bit up against the wall they know this -- was a winner for Democrats. And so what you're gonna succeed. Democrats continue to keep that from of the elections -- Thank you DeVon for that equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter is now speaking introduce -- -- president elect Clinton and where she had sued Goodyear for equal pay. I knew I wasn't ready. I knew I wasn't ready to give up on by our -- -- -- -- eight years later congress -- the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act and resident. Okay. -- President Obama made history with his signature. On the -- First -- -- son sending a clear message about here -- priorities. Spending the Honda president in this case 99 straight nail into law was one of the greatest moments -- live. -- and you and the president knew that my veil was just an important first fail in the -- or fair play. In the five years stance -- -- -- -- companion legislation the paycheck fairness act. Stalled in congress was a little movement in the spot for a fair -- That is until to day. Folks and refer to me as the face of fair play. But -- today at least that cattle belongs to president Barack Obama. Okay. -- -- President Obama will sign an executive order. That will ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discussed their -- and their salaries. Not only as if that critical pace of the -- paycheck fairness act but this action also gets a lot -- my largest. Barrier all those years ago. I didn't know -- is being made on -- and I had no way to have found out. I was told in no uncertain terms that -- year they end and -- -- the government contractor. Our employees. Who shared their salary information. It was against company policy. Whoever else made that anonymous note did so brightly. Knowing that -- sheet could face retaliation. If that were found out. From my nine -- mail -- -- he's executive orders. President Obama has -- the outspoken leader women and families need owned airplane. I urge congress to -- on the president on the -- side of history. Enticing the -- -- fairness act. Outside -- -- Obama or his continued courage and vision. And am -- remained to be don't want to introduce him to. Please join me and I'm very. Warm welcome -- president Barack Obama. -- -- -- -- Well thanks to my friend Lilly Ledbetter. -- if production but for fighting for a simple -- Equal pay for equal work is not that complicated. And -- I assure you you him -- the faces. I want my blog on -- but -- your face. As we mentioned. She did not set out to be a real way. You're just somebody who was working up Herbert every day -- to work. You're job best she could. No wonder -- she finds that after years. That -- earned less than her male colleagues for doing the same job. I -- make that point. Again. Doing the same job -- You know sometimes when you when you when we discussed this issue. Fair pay equal pay for equal work. And the and the the pay gap between men and women you'll hear all sorts of excuses. Well -- child bearing their choosing to do some this man that got. Just on the signed up. Probably don't -- And road. -- and dozens are -- put in more hours. Which has given systematically payloads. And so she set -- to make sure this country lived up to its founding. The idea that all of us are created it. And when the courts didn't -- call congress -- The first time -- and I stood together in this room. Was my tenth day in office and that's when we signed the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act first -- I -- Some leaders who help make that happened -- here today including. -- -- -- From. Okay. We'll. Thank all members of congress all the state legislators were here and all the advocates we're here because you'll contributed. To that effort. I want to give special thanks to the members of the national equity pay -- equal pay task force. -- done outstanding work to make workplaces across America more fair. A work order because today is equal pay that. The -- And it's nice to have a good. But it's even better than being open. And our job not finished. Equal pay today means that a woman has to work about this -- into 2014. Earned what do manner and in 2000 -- think about that a woman's gotta work. But three more months. In order to get what -- man got. Because she's -- let's. Let's not there. That's like. Adding an extra six miles to America. It's not right. Think right. Bennett -- right. America should be. A level playing field. A fair rates for everybody a place where anybody who's won't work hard -- chance to get ahead. And restoring an opportunity for every American men and women has to be. A driving focus for our country. But the good -- today our economy is brought businesses created it almost nine million new jobs over the past four years. More than seven million Americans have signed up for health care coverage of -- before -- We're. A good good. I don't speak -- -- they're not obamacare today. But I do want to point out that the Affordable Care Act. Guarantees free preventive care like mammograms and contraceptive care for tens of millions of women. And ends the day is when you could be charged more just for being a woman. -- -- -- Wolf who brought about a week. That's just one more place where things were not fair. We'll we'll talk about dry cleaners -- strike. -- a large cost more from Michelle's -- my shirt. But we've got to make sure. America works forever but. Anybody -- won't work hard fish -- to get it. We've got to build an economy that works for everybody not just those at the top. Restoring opportunity for all has to be our priority. That's what America's about the matter where you he started off what you look like he worked hard to take responsibility. You make the effort he -- get it. We've got to fight for an opportunity agenda which means more good jobs that pay good wages and training. Americans to make sure they can fill those jobs and guaranteeing every child a world class education and making sure the economy rewards hard work. For every single American. And part of that is fighting -- fair pay for one. Because when women succeed. American. We'll. We'll. -- here the challenge today. Average full time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar -- For African American women. But to announce the team -- And 2000 -- that's an embarrassment. It is wrong. And this is not just an issue of fairness it's also a family issue and and economic issue because women make up about half of our workforce. And they're increasingly the breadwinners. For whole lot of families out there so when they make less money -- it means less money for -- must money for groceries as money for child care. Less money for college tuition. Let's money's -- into retirement savings. And it's all bad for business because our economy. Depends on. Customers out there. And when customers have less money when hardworking women. You know don't have the resources. You know about -- -- that's a problem when businesses lose terrific women talent because they're fed up with unfair policies. That's bad for business. They lose out on on the contributions from those women could be make. When any of our citizens can't fulfill their potential for reasons that -- not to do with their talent or their character of their work ethic. We're not living up to our founding guns. We don't have second class citizens in this country. Certainly not vote number workplace. So tomorrow the senate has the chance to start making this right. By passing a bill that -- -- alluded to. The paycheck fairness act. The late night Paul. I know what what sensible rules. In a place like making sure employees who discuss -- salaries don't face retaliation by the reports. And it's here here's what is important there are women here today who worked in offices where was against the rules. For employees to discuss salaries one another and because of that. They didn't know there'll -- -- less than -- just like what we did not for doing the exact same work. For some it was years. Before they found that. And even that it only happened because manager accidentally lets let. Or as in -- case is sympathetic coworker while we passed a note. She only found out she earned less than her male colleagues for doing the same work because somebody left anonymous no we can't leave that chance. And over the course of -- career she lost more than 200000. Dollars in salary. Even more in pension and Social Security benefits both of which are pegged to salary. Simply because she was -- And -- some of the other -- women here decided it was wrong set out to fix. They went to their bosses they aspirations. That -- work return to the ball filed suit. For sum for years after waiting and persisting they finally got some justice. Well tomorrow the senate. Could pay tribute to their courage by voting yes for paycheck fairness they should not be -- heart problems. Live and should not -- that. New York and. So far Republicans in congress have. And gum up the works may have been blocking progress on this issue then of course other issues -- would help would be economic recovery help us grow faster. We don't have to accept that. America you don't have to sit still. You can make sure -- putting some pressure on members of congress about this issue. And I don't care whether you're Democrat or Republican if -- voter. If you've got a daughter that. You've got a sister. You got a mom I know you -- -- That's -- you should care about. And I'm not at a standstill -- so in this -- of -- I've used my executive authority whatever I could create opportunity for more Americans. And today -- take action. Executive action to make it easier. For working women. To earn -- fair pay. So first I'm gonna sign an executive order to create more pay transparency by prohibiting. Federal contractors from retaliating. Against employees who discuss their pay with -- -- Received fosters discrimination. And we should not tolerate. Not a federal contractor or anywhere else. Second. I'm -- a presidential memorandum directing. The Department of Labor and our outstanding sector labor to -- -- to require federal contractors to provide data about their employee compensation. So pay discrimination can be spotted more -- I want to be clear they're great employers out there who do the right thing. There are plenty of employers up there were actually -- certain that there's no pay discrimination happening in their offices. But then sometimes when the -- is laid out paints a different picture. Many times they -- do everything they can to fix the problem. And so we want. To encourage them to fix these problems if they exist. By that. Making sure that the date is out there. So everybody who cares about this should pay attention to how the senate votes tomorrow. On this -- -- Paycheck fairness act because -- majority of senators support this bill. But two years ago a minority of senate Republicans blocked it from getting a vote. Even worse some commentators are out there saying the prepared dep doesn't even expressed. -- -- -- -- But it's not a myth it's math. You could look at. Look at the stork. And. And Lilly Ledbetter didn't just make this not. The court when it looked at the documents yeah -- you've been given get paid less for doing the same job. Just the Portman said you know it's been as -- as has been happening so long he can't do -- about it anymore. Which made no sense and that's why we had signed another bill. It's basic math adds up to real money. It makes a real difference for a lot of Americans were working hard to support their families. And of course is that the fact that we've got some resistance from some folks on this issue up on Capitol Hill. Just fits with this larger problem this this vision that the congressional Republicans seem to -- Continually embracing this notion that you know what you're just on general no matter how unfair things are. You see it in their budget. The budget the Republicans in congress just put forward last week it's like a bad rerun. It would give massive tax cuts to households making more than a million dollars a year forced deep cuts to things that actually help working families. -- early education. College grants and job training. And of course includes that you know novel idea of repealing the affordable care. Fiftieth time -- -- that. Which would that mean. The more than seven million. Americans. -- -- responsibly. Both bank and signed up to buy health insurance they lose their health insurance and three million young adults who stayed on their parents -- date no longer. Have that available. Take us back to the days when insurers could charge women more. Just for -- -- woman. On minimum wage three out of there are Americans support raising the minimum wage usually -- three out of four American support something. Members of congress are right that. And -- here Republicans in congress are dead set against it. Blocking a pay -- for tens of millions of Americans a moral majority of them. Women. This isn't just about treating women fairly this about Republicans seemingly opposing. Any efforts. To even playing field for working families. And -- those of the Michigan last week and I just asked I don't understand. But -- fully the theory behind this. I know why you would resist the idea that women should be paid the same as man. And then. -- bet that's not always happen out there. If Republicans in congress want to prove me wrong. They want to show that they in fact do care about. Women been sick pay the same as mountain -- only. They can start tomorrow. They can join us in this the 21 century. And vote yes on the pay -- -- Road and -- Watching or listening if you care about this issue then. Let your senators know where you stand. Because America deserves equal pay. For equal work. This is not something we're gonna achieve today there's gonna be a lot of stuff that we've got to do to close -- -- -- We got to make it possible for more -- and -- high paying fields that up until now been dominated by men like engineering and computer science. We're gonna hold less than 6% of our country's commercial patents that's not good enough. We need more parents in high school teachers and college professors encouraging girls and women to study math and science. We need more businesses to make gender diversity -- priority when they hire and when they promote. Fewer than 5% of fortune 500 companies have women at the -- I think we'd all agree. That we need more women in congress. Fewer than 20% of congressional seats are held by women. Clearly congress would get more done at the ratio was. Even battle a -- so we got to work from that. We've all got to do more to make our workplaces more welcoming to want. Because the numbers show that even when men and women are in the same profession and have the same education there's still -- wage gap and it widens over time. So -- keep making the case for why these policies are the right ones for working families and businesses. And -- all the lead up to this first several White House summit on working families on June 23. This ultimately equal pay is not just an economic issue for millions of Americans -- families. It's also about whether were welcome to build an economy that works forever. And whether we're gonna do our part to make sure that our daughters have the same chances. To pursue their dreams is our sons and whether or not. -- -- that restore. To the heart of this country that basic idea. You could make it no matter who we are if you -- And that's personal for me. I've said this before I've got two daughters. And I expect them be treated. Just like anybody -- And I think -- my single mom working hard going to school. Try to raise two kids. All the same time I think about my grandmother. Trying to work her way -- Through her career. And then -- the glass ceiling. And I've I've seen how -- they worked I've seen how they've sucked it up. And you know that they put up with stuff and they don't say anything and they. You know just. Take care of their -- the taker themselves. They don't complain a lot. -- but -- -- certain point. We have the power to do something about for the next generation. And this is a good place to start. So. For her body out there -- -- Astor center where you stand on paycheck fairness. If they tell. There there's not a -- About. You tell him the look of the day that -- there it. Is time to get this done. Number under my small part right now by -- his regular work for a. Okay. President Obama they are calling for congress to follow his lead getting ready to sign an executive order and a memorandum. That he says will help. Bridge the gender pay grant pay gap. Right now I want to bring in -- -- -- from Yahoo! finance to break down the numbers on the equal pay effort and I also want to bring back ABC's Devin Dwyer who is at the White House. Lauren let's start with you the president saying women still earn 77 cents to every dollar that the average male makes but there are also some other surveys that actually put that -- a little closer -- it's actually closer -- 84 cents. Which one is taking the dominance here on media argument. Well so there is -- pay gap that's not up for debate what matters. It's scary and you factor and that calculations that hasn't mentioned earlier on your show that 77 cents that women are having dollars in in the manner in. Now it's kind of thick patch found number they 84 cents every dollar 84%. Of women make compared to -- Is an -- from pew research which sat there -- The way that they come up with this is by looking at the. Hourly earnings. For a full and part time workers so you start to get intent of more -- -- -- the gap as you start to Parse down the number of hours worked. That type -- job the wrong on the income ladder so you're gonna see different figures based on. The different criteria you use so I'd be 84%. Is just a different stake here that comes from PO and -- -- different way to look at the situation. And -- the executive order that we just solved the President Obama signed. It affects Federer doesn't affect federal contractors in the way that any company that has a contract with the federal government. They'll have to change its rules to allow police briefly discussed salary. That's right -- this is a difficult one Michelle to force but certainly it is -- now than any business that does. Get a contract with the federal government cannot retaliate against those employees if they talked amongst themselves and you heard the president there. Talk about Lilly Ledbetter case one that he's spoken about since he took office. Who discovered that she was being -- last simply by -- a note from one for employees they were allowed to discuss this. And it kind of came out happenstance mentioned she looked back and figured out that -- do. Significantly more wages so. In the White House -- this is. Certainly is symbolic step but also one that they hope will make it. Actual material difference in the lives of these workers of federal contract. And of course the Democrats along with the president taking in this charge there are some conservative think tanks though that argue that the average pay for women is lower than men. Because some of the arguments that they work fewer hours take maternity leave. They made. Sort of different other experiences that math add up -- -- all of this just an argument for political rhetoric. There's so much swirling around here in the politics of this we heard it in the president's remarks there -- on the hill today. Lauren got at some of those numbers there's really two issues here right there's. Equal pay for equal work. Right looking at two people doing the same job are women and men getting paid Hussein and in this kind of -- bigger picture question about society and the economy are women. I've given the same opportunities as men that the chances -- -- some of those higher earning jobs and careers. And that's what's intended to separate tracks here it's been Parse this statistics show in the former equal pay for equal work the gap is much smaller. And here at the White House but in that kind of bigger picture book there's there's more -- -- -- and -- and the fact that women primarily worked in some of these industries where there is lower pay or. -- so adjusted to add to the prior question when you -- start to Parse for hours and for our issues like Mary Jane and -- and wearing. You do start to see at closing that gap and I can show you and get you a little bit color behind not so -- in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They admit that a full time worker they're not all created equals so not everybody may work forty hours so when you Parse down to -- Women and men making forty year working forty hours a week and you have a pay gap that -- -- it's 88%. Also a child rearing marriage children and that impacts women's pay women are far more likely to leave the workforce. Either by cutting -- hours for child care or leaving the workforce for some time and then when they go back they don't have the same leverage in terms of -- that they did it they hadn't -- so to get US -- -- how that impacts things. According -- BLS in 2012. Single women that were never married. -- 96%. -- what men make so I guess -- -- single forever and never got married I kids this pay gap wouldn't be as much and issue. Another factor is one that you raise which is -- women are more likely overall even though yes they have and her professional fields and managerial fields to a greater extent. -- in the past overall is some of the -- high paid industries are still dominated by men. I'll give you one example engineering engineering jobs are in demand of their high paid in many cases. And if you look at college graduates -- that bachelor degrees are getting at 57% of them are earned by winning. 80% and engineering degrees are earned by -- and so it's not something that President Obama did touch on and that certainly is an issue that overall. Women may be more likely to be insanity -- -- lower paid and not in some of these fields that are overall higher paid so that certainly is an issue that is locked. And DeVon back to you there's also a little controversy surrounding in the White House itself on that push it turns out that. Perhaps an average female White House employees may. -- less for every dollar that men that the White House -- but we also heard from Jay Carney yesterday disputing that. Yes definitely this is this is an issue that swirled around here Republicans are seizing on this all -- to -- with the yardstick. That we've been talking about with more. Using that aggregate number the seventy cents to the dollar nationwide on average all women against all men. Occupy that same yardstick to here at the White House is actually 88 cents in the dollar now. That truth be told had women and men here at the White House as a public salaries women and men in the same jobs here at the White House are paid exactly the same. But if you're using that yardstick that's used -- tossed around out there nationwide aggregate figure there is a gap even here at the White House. I'm hearing 77 cents 84 cents ninety's that sense I haven't heard a dollar -- -- now while there's still a gap there -- themes of these things that are looking out for younger women. How much are the young -- the younger generation making compared to their male counterparts. -- -- -- imagine that you haven't heard a hundred -- you're not getting married yet so for younger a winning game making 93% of what men make which may speak to this issue it arises. When women get married and start having -- the reality is meant to start leaving the workforce to do this same. Work at home that women are announced -- -- reality and the reality that gender discrimination still factors and regardless of whether you're taking a more conservative -- estimate or a broader estimates that even a conservative estimate for the American Enterprise Institute says that gender discrimination. -- makes up 5% of that gap. -- just hit bring a little collar and a little example to that there's as -- going on. From workers -- of the largest retail company the United States its sterling Jewelers -- stores include. Generating Kay Jewelers twelve women are involved. And just the New York Times profiled some of them and their story and what one discovered when she just stumbled upon some paperwork as they a new man -- even -- that had no retail -- -- jury experience. With hired at fifteen dollars an hour which is a dollar -- more per hour in the highest selling -- in that store who was a one and when -- reviewed dozens more. Cases like that dozens other employees she found the same trend discrimination. Or what appeared to be discrimination when you looked at with the women and -- were getting paid. Paid to -- -- back and forth how much that the gender gap truly exist and and what is it responsible for that gender discrimination it's still appears to be very much part of that. And -- historically the number of working women is extremely high and has having more women in the workforce. Helps bridge that gap at all. Well certainly Hampshire number of factors have played a role but yes I mean the trend has been at this situation has improved for women women are making much more are making more than their mothers -- thirty years ago in every rung of the ladder according to -- they're making 50% more in terms of their wages however. -- exempt at -- local -- on that it's still below. What men in those runs were making. Three decades ago so it certainly hasn't for effect on -- -- manner making it's gone from a sixteen -- -- for accordion PO. Front 36 cent pay gap in in 1980 to sixteen cents today. She -- -- from Yahoo! finance and ABC's Devin Dwyer thank you very much for joining us we'll keep a watch on this especially during the election year. You can keep up with the latest on this president's push for equal pay in real time by downloading the ABC news -- and starring in this story for exclusive updates on the go. For now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York. -- designed from the ground up. The new.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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