July 5, 2019 / 12:13 PM / a month ago

U.S. Senator Warren proposes executive action on women of colour pay gap

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, on Friday proposed a plan to help women of colour get better wages and a path to the leadership positions they have been denied.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren waves to the crowd after speaking at the Rainbow PUSH broadcast and community forum, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Warren announced executive actions she would take on Day One of her presidency if she were elected, the latest plan in the progressive candidate’s policy-heavy campaign that has centred on fair wages, workers’ rights and access to healthcare.

“Employers tilt the playing field against women of colour at every stage of employment,” Warren said, beginning with using salary histories that lock women of colour into lower wages.

The pay gap issue is part of a larger discussion on income inequality among the 25 candidates who want to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

In May, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, herself a woman of colour, proposed closing the gender pay gap by requiring companies to disclose pay data and secure an “equal pay certification” or be fined.

Warren noted the statistics on pay: Black women earn 61 cents for every dollar white men make and the gap between white and black women is higher than it was 40 years ago. Women of colour lack networking and mentorship opportunities and have a harder climb to management jobs.

“For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of colour equal opportunities,” Warren said. “It’s time for the government to try to right those wrongs - and boost our economy in the process.”

Warren would impose new rules for private sector contractors for the federal government, including a requirement to disclose data on employees’ pay, race, gender and age. U.S. agencies would not be allowed to enter into contracts with companies with poor track records on diversity and the government would ban contractors who ask about past salary and criminal histories.

Within the federal government, which she said does a “dismal job on diversity and inclusion,” Warren would boost recruitment efforts to target entry-level applicants and create paid fellowships for minority and low-income job applicants. Her plan would also require a mentorship programme for black and brown employees.

A third executive action would direct the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to better fight discriminatory practices in industries that employ a large number of women of colour.

Warren called the executive orders a first step.

“We need to do much more to make sure that women of colour have a fair shot at opportunity and financial security,” she said, noting her earlier policy proposals on affordable housing, universal child care and student debt cancellation.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Thomas

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