Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is calling on lawmakers to "shatter" the so-called "glass ceiling" that many believe prevents women from earning as much money as men in their careers.
"I'm the father of two daughters, and I want them to fully see and embrace the American dream," Pawlenty said Thursday. "So we all need to work on making sure there isn't a glass ceiling, and if there is one, we need to make sure it's busted, broken, shattered."
Pawlenty's comments come on the same week as “Equal Pay Day,” the name given to the point in the year at which some say an average woman’s pay catches up to what a man doing the same job made in the previous year.
The pay gap between men and women is a matter of fierce dispute. Some researchers say the disparity disappears when factors like work hours and profession are taken into account.
President Obama recognized Equal Pay Day on Tuesday by signing two executive actions intended to close the wage gap between men and women. The first order prevents government contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation, a move that could help women determine whether they are making the same amount as men.
The second order would require these same contractors to report to the government a summary of how much they pay their employees, broken up by race and sex, so the government can determine whether they are following equal pay rules.
The measures from the Obama administration are designed to promote pay equality and transparency.
Pawlenty applauded President Obama's efforts to raise the issue of equal pay, but he would not comment on whether he agreed with the language of the president's executive orders.
"It's an important topic to raise up," Pawlenty said. "While the Republicans and Democrats are skirmishing around how to best address it, it's important that it get addressed."
Pawlenty, now the president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, was speaking at an event on financial literacy.
He pointed to a new study from Junior Achievement, an organization that promotes financial literacy among children and teenagers, which found that teen girls face a perceived future earnings gap, even before they join the workforce.
The study showed that girls expect to earn less money than boys do after they graduate college and start their first job. In fact, 39 percent of teen boys think they will make more than $35,000 at their first job, while only 34 percent of teen girls think the same thing.
"Teen boys and girls have significantly different expectations about their earning power in their first 'real' job out of college," the study explained. "Despite fewer of them showing interest in higher education, boys have higher expectations about future income."
Pawlenty said this is "very, very concerning."
"It's something that is a real concern and needs to be addressed," he added.