Obama orders new strategy to boost federal pay equality

President Obama is ordering the federal government to look at how it can reduce pay disparity among its more than 4.4 million employees.

In a memo to heads of federal agencies and departments on Friday, the president asked for a new strategy to reduce the discrepancy between what men and women are paid.

"The Federal Government is the Nation's largest employer. It has a special responsibility to act as a model employer," Obama said in the memo.

"Today, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men," he added. "At the same time, nearly two-thirds of women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families. Unjust pay disparities are a detriment to women, families, and our economy."

In the memo, Obama orders each agency to send its policies on salaries and promotions to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within the next 90 days.

Within 90 days after that, the director of the OPM needs to compile and submit to the White House a strategy to combat pay inequality.

The strategy needs to include an analysis of whether the government should change its worker classification system, called General Schedule, possible ways to promote transparency of starting salaries at agencies and recommendations on studies, administrative actions or legislation to reduce the pay gap, the memo dictates.

In his inaugural address in January, Obama called decreasing the gender pay disparity one aspect of "our generation's task."

"For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," he said in the speech, putting the issue on equal footing with same-sex marriage and immigration reform.

The administration's opponents dispute the president's 77 cents-per-dollar figure, and have stymied legislative measures to address pay disparity.

In April, strong Republican opposition in the House prevented the chamber from considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would increase protections for women filing lawsuits against gender discrimination, for which Obama has long advocated.

"Today's announcement is one step forward in the fight for pay equity, and I applaud President Obama for taking it," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who authored the House bill, in a statement.

"However, there is still much to be done," she added, "and the President should take the next step of banning government contractors from retaliating against employees who share their salaries."

--This report was originally published at 4:17 p.m. and last updated at 5:23 p.m.