American women are making real gains, especially in college and graduate education, but they continue to lag behind men in pay, according to a report released today by the White House that administration officials say will be used as a basis for policy changes.
The White House released the report, "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," to kick off Women's History Month. It was described as a "statistical portrait" showing how women are faring in the country today and how their roles have changed over time.
Administration officials acknowledged that there is nothing new to these reports -- compiled from reports that were already available to the public -- but said that the compilation of the findings shows something important for women and families that will influence the president's policies.
"The story is really looking at all of this together, to show how women's lives around children and family is changing," White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said on a conference call today with reporters.
She did not mention any specific policy changes that would be made, but said that the findings of the report will be addressed.
"It helps inform our policy decisions because we've got to realize that we've got to encourage women to go into higher-paying fields and be educating in a way that is going to lead to higher paying jobs," Jarrett said. "And so if you look at it in the totality, I think it will inform a wide variety of different policies and programs the federal government will initiate and continue, but it will be evidence-based."
The White House said the report serves as a guidepost to move forward, by enhancing the administration's understanding of how far women have come and what remains to be done.
General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Management and Budget Preeta Bansal said that they will persue this "evidence based policy making" approach now with "an all government and all agency approach to address the special issues effecting women."
The administration said some of the key findings of the report were:
Women have not only caught up with men in college attendance but younger women are now more likely than younger men to have a college or a graduate degree. Women are also working more and the number of women and men in the labor force has nearly equalized in recent years. As women's work has increased, their earnings constitute a growing share of family income.
Gains in education and labor force involvement have not yet translated into wage and income equity. At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009. In part because of these lower earnings and in part because unmarried and divorced women are the most likely to have responsibility for raising and supporting their children, women are more likely to be in poverty than men. These economic inequities are even more acute for women of color.
Women live longer than men but are more likely to face certain health problems, such as mobility impairments, arthritis, asthma, depression and obesity. Women are also less physically active than men. Women are less likely than men to suffer from heart disease or diabetes. One out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care and the share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased.
Women are less likely than in the past to be the target of violent crimes, including homicide. But women are victims of certain crimes, such as intimate partner violence and stalking, at higher rates than men.
The report focused on five areas: people, families and income; education; unemployment; health; and crime and violence. The administration will be observing Women's History Month by highlighting a different section of the report each week.
The administration said that one reason for the persistence of the wage gap between men and women is that women are preparing themselves in lower-wage fields.
"That is a concern, and President Obama has done a number of things trying to increase interest in the so-called STEM areas -- science, technology, engineering and math, with regard to bring more women into those areas," Acting Deputy Secretary at the Department of Commerce Becky Blank said.
The findings show that there is still a significant difference in how married men and women spend their time outside of work. While men on average spend more time at work, they also spend more of their leisure time on sports.
Women, on the other hand, spend more of their non-work hours on household cares.
"So if you add together market work and household work, women actually end up working more than men in terms of the sum of those," Blank said.
In a proclamation issued Monday in honor of Women's History Month, President Obama discussed some of the issues raised in the report.
"Today, women have reached heights their mothers and grandmothers might only have imagined. Women now comprise nearly half of our workforce and the majority of students in our colleges and universities," Obama wrote. "Despite our progress, too many women continue to be paid less than male workers, and women are significantly underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields."
Read report HERE.