Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why does the wage gap still exist? Because workplace discrimination still exists.

I was thrilled to be in Washington, D.C., yesterday, to speak with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Preeta Bansal, General Counsel and Senior Policy Adviser at the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President, about issues concerning women and the workplace. If you missed the live half-hour event, which was livestreamed at and on the White House's Facebook page, you can watch the video of it right here:

I spent more than a week collecting questions from members of the Shine community, and asked both administration officials about the ones that most of Shine's readers are most concerned about: Why the wage gap between men and women still exists, whether companies will be encouraged to be more family-friendly, what initiatives are being put in place to make it easier for women to rejoin the work force, and whether there are any plans to find better ways to encourage and support the efforts of single mothers who are trying to live without resorting to government handouts. I also took questions from the live Facebook audience about women and finances, education, and work-life balance.

When it comes to the wage gap -- the fact that women continue to earn as much as 25 percent less than men for doing comparable work in certain fields -- there's no single easy solution.

"Well, there are a variety of reasons, a variety of different factors," Jarrett told me. "We have to encourage our young girls to go into fields that lead to profitable careers."

"Women are still carrying the burden of family," she pointed out. "Women aren't able to spend as much time as work [as men] because they have all these other committments and responsibilities. And then another factor is that we still have discrimination in the workplace."

To encourage change, "part of what we've been doing here at the White House, as part of the Council of Women and Girls, is to highlight best practices." Jarrett said. "Employers who have flexibility in the workplace are more productive."

Watch the video above, and be sure to click over to the Manage Your Life section at Shine as we continue the discussion there!

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