President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden joined current and former members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team on Wednesday to mark Equal Pay Day.
The event is part of the administration’s efforts to highlight the overall gender disparity in pay for women. Equal Pay Day marks how long women have to work to catch up with the pay earned by White men the previous year; currently women make about 82 cents on every dollar for a White man. The disparities are worse for many women of color.
Jill Biden spoke about her outrage at learning at a young teacher in her first job in 1975 that she was being paid only 75 percent as much as a man hired at the same time. She said the issue of equal pay is personal to her, and to all women.
“It wasn’t just about the money,” Jill Biden said. “It was the lack of respect. Why was my work worth less?”
Soccer players Megan Rapinoe and Margaret Purce joined the Bidens at the White House for Wednesday’s afternoon event.
Rapinoe said that despite her multiple World Cup and Olympic gold medal wins, “I’ve been devalued, I’ve been dismissed, I’ve been disrespected because I am a woman.”
“I’m still paid less than men who do the same job I do,” Rapinoe said. “Beyond the cheers and the gestures, there is so much real work to be done.”
Rapinoe introduced President Joe Biden, who talked about how women have been hit harder by the pandemic and touted measures in the American Rescue Plan. He also praised the U.S. women’s soccer team players.
“This team is living proof that you can be the very best at what you do and still have to fight for equal pay,” Biden said.
Biden signed a proclamation on the racial and gendered factors that contribute to the pay inequality exacerbated by the pandemic. He also urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, according to administration officials.
Rapinoe also testified before Congress on Wednesday morning on the issue of equal pay. The Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion has been outspoken against pay inequity in the sport and across society.
“We’ve filled stadiums, we’ve broken viewing records, we’ve sold out our jerseys, all the popular metrics by which we are judged” Rapinoe told a House committee. “And yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than our male counterparts — for each trophy, or which there are many, for each win, for each tie, for each time we play: less. … If it can happen to us, it can happen to me to me, with the brightest lights shining on us at all times — it can, and it does, happen to every person who is marginalized by gender. But we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to continue to be patient for decades on end. We can change that today. We can change that right now. We just have to want to.”
Vice President Kamala Harris and Cecilia Rouse, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, held a roundtable discussion with women leaders, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will convened a listening session on gender equity in the workplace in St. Louis as part of his efforts to sell the American Rescue Plan to voters.