Looking to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, the White House in a new report Wednesday argued that increasing such payments to $10.10 an hour would prove even more beneficial to women than men.
Obama and congressional Democrats are using the minimum wage as a centerpiece of their 2014 electoral efforts, painting conservatives as out of touch with the needs of working-class Americans.
And now the White House is arguing that women are the most burdened by a minimum wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation, arguing that female workers are most highly concentrated in low-pay sectors.
The administration's report found that women account for 55 percent of workers earning the minimum wage. And the White House also highlighted the high proportion of female workers who receive a “tipped minimum wage” of $2.13 an hour in many states.
“Raising the full minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage will help reduce poverty among women and their families, as well as make progress toward closing the gender pay gap,” the White House said.
Though employers are required to cover any difference between a worker's tips and the federal minimum wage, officials said that companies don't always comply with the rule.
Obama has long pointed out that women bring in 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. Critics counter that Obama’s own White House showcases a similar discrepancy and say such figures don’t fully account for the differences in jobs taken by women and men.
“Often people think of women breaking through the glass ceiling … but equally, it’s important to figure out how women are doing at the bottom,” Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said when asked why the administration was focusing so intently on how the minimum wage affects women.
Republicans have accused the president of leveling exaggerated “war on women” charges against the GOP purely for political gain.
Stevenson said the latest White House effort is about promoting basic economic fairness.
“We know there’s a lot of women at these low-wage positions,” Stevenson said, adding that many female workers feel “stuck there.”
The president has already increased the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but that executive order applies only to a few hundred thousand people nationwide.
According to the new White House report, roughly three of 10 female workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage have children. And 2.8 million single parents, 80 percent of whom are female, would see their wages increase, the White House added.
Obama is likely to rake Republicans over the coals if they continue to block stalled legislation to raise wages, especially in appeals to female voters.
“A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women,” the president said earlier this month. "These Americans are working full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.”