U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at the Hack the Pay Gap Demo Day


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks at the White House Hack the Pay Gap Demo Day. This event brought together data scientists, developers, and designers who answered the Department’s “Hack the Pay Gap,” challenge to use Commerce data on income and population to create new products and strategies for combating gender-based pay disparities.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker highlighted how open data and digital technologies offer new tools for solving decades-old problems like pay discrimination. She noted that as “America’s Data Agency,” the Department of Commerce is committed to opening its vast stores of data for the benefit of our businesses and our people.

Following her remarks, Secretary Pritzker listened to elevator pitches from developers about the projects they created, which aim to help workers, companies and the public increase the transparency around salaries in the workplace, improve awareness of the pay gap, and equip women with tools to better negotiate their pay.


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction, Megan. I want to thank the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Presidential Innovation Fellows for supporting the Department of Commerce’s effort to “Hack the Pay Gap.” I also want to thank the Kauffman Foundation, Accenture, Google, and Golden Seeds for joining us today. Of course, the real stars of this event are you: the developers and data scientists who answered the “Hack the Pay Gap” challenge.

For decades, the pay gap has remained a pervasive and persistent problem, an economic injustice ripe for digital disruption. More than 50 years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law. Yet today women still earn 79 cents for every dollar made by men despite performing comparable work.  Over the course of the average American woman’s career, this discrepancy amounts to nearly half a million dollars in reduced income. Disparities are even worse in minority communities. African American and Latina women respectively earn 60 and 55 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white males.

Equal pay for equal work is not just a women’s issue. Wage discrimination affects our families and impacts our nation’s economic prosperity.  While the gap has narrowed in recent decades, progress is slow and we must do better. Fortunately, in today’s era of innovation and digitization, big data equips us with new tools to solve old problems.

When I came to the Commerce Department, I was amazed by the reach, depth, and breadth of the data we collect each day. We truly are “America’s Data Agency.”  From NOAA to the Census Bureau to the Patent Office, each day we produce enough information to fill the Library of Congress – twice.

Our datasets are rich sources of economic, demographic, and scientific intelligence. Yet big data has little value unless we make it accessible and consumable for our businesses and our people. That is why the Commerce Department has made open data a priority for the first time.

Leading this effort is the Commerce Data Service. This in-house team of software engineers and data scientists works to improve the availability and the usability of data across our 12 bureaus.  The creation of MIDAAS - or Making Income Data Available as a Service - is a perfect example. Built by the Commerce Data Service, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, and the Census Bureau, the MIDAAS API makes our income, population, and geographic data easy to find, access, and use.

This April, in honor of Equal Pay Day, we invited developers to use the MIDAAS API to “Hack the Pay Gap.” We challenged you to create, for example: data visualizations that reveal the impact pay discrimination; tools that increase salary transparency; and solutions for companies to reduce bias in the hiring process.

I am so impressed by scope of the projects created by the teams here today. From personalized pay gap calculators to virtual salary negotiation tools, you are proving that big data can help us solve big problems like wage discrimination. And with larger and richer datasets, I know that you can create even more sophisticated solutions.

To bring more transparency to pay disparities, our Administration has announced that beginning in 2017, businesses with more than 100 employees will be required to report income data broken down by race, gender and ethnicity. Many companies are not waiting to take action. Last month at the White House, 28 top American companies – including Apple, PepsiCo, and Salesforce – proactively pledged to assess their own pay gaps and encouraged others to do the same. As more businesses make this commitment, they will need tools to address the inequities within their own workforces – tools like those designed for our “Hack the Pay Gap” challenge.

These capabilities would have been incredibly valuable to me throughout my 27 years in business – not only as a leader of organizations but also as a woman negotiating my own compensation. I know that I am preaching to the converted here, but it is amazing how what you do not know impacts what you settle for.

By bringing greater transparency and visibility to this issue, your work empowers organizations, advocates, and every day citizens to make the case for equal pay and back it up with hard numbers.

I am excited to hear your elevator pitches and learn more about your efforts to Hack the Pay Gap. Thank you for lending your talent and tech-savvy to the cause of equal pay for equal work.


Related content

Last updated: 2016-07-19 14:55

Bureaus & Offices

Search by organization name or browse the tree below