Today is Equal Pay Day, a day when we recognize the wage gap between men and women and identify strategies to close it. The date of Equal Pay Day represents how far into the year a woman would have to work to ‘catch up’ to the annual salary earned by the average man in the year before. Since an average woman’s wages are only 84% of an average man’s, women must work an additional 73 days to make as much money as a man did in a year. The average annual pay of a woman working full-time year-round in the United States. is 84% of the average man’s salary, which results in a pay gap of 16 cents on every dollar. Wage gaps between white men and women of color are even larger; the gap between Black women and white men is 37 cents, and the gap between Indigenous women and white men is 42 cents.
A 2020 analysis found that 42% of the variation between men’s and women’s wages can be explained by occupational segregation. Occupational segregation describes the situation where certain occupations are dominated by individuals of a particular race, gender, or other personal characteristic. Unfortunately, occupational segregation relegates women, and particularly women of color, to lower paying and less stable work. We see occupational gender segregation in the United States, where jobs like caretaking are thought of as “women’s jobs” and many jobs—including energy jobs—are often thought of as "men’s jobs.” In fact, in the energy industry, women represent just 25% of the workforce, compared to 47% of the overall American labor force. Societal norms, workplace harassment, access to childcare, and disproportionate domestic responsibilities can prevent women from accessing high-paying and stable work opportunities.
In addition to lowering women’s wage potential, occupational segregation slows the transition to a zero-emissions economy. The highest female participation rates in the energy sector are in natural gas electricity generation (35%) and nuclear (34%). Right now, women make up just 30% of the solar power workforce and 30% of the wind energy workforce. To meet our energy goals during this time of rapid growth in investments, clean energy deployment can leapfrog the traditional practices with intentional strategies to recruit, support, and advance women workers. As energy investments grow, we will need droves of new workers—including women—to enter energy careers.
To meet the nation’s climate and energy goals, we must reduce barriers to employment and advancement that women face in the energy workforce. We must work to narrow the wage gap between women and men. Working with unions is a proven strategy to achieve this goal, as collective bargaining agreements ensure that workers are paid the same compensation for the same work, a practice that eliminates the effects of unconscious bias in hiring and promoting. Already, women are likely to earn higher wages in the energy workforce (energy jobs have a median hourly wage 34% higher than the national median hourly wage) and see higher rates of unionization. Women represented by a union have a narrower pay gap than non-unionized women; the average woman represented by a union makes 98% of an average man’s pay.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is working with energy companies and unions across the United States to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to high-paying energy jobs and career-track training, like registered apprenticeship. One way DOE does this is by requiring funding applicants to submit Community Benefit Plans when they apply for discretionary grant programs for demonstrations and deployment activities. DOE evaluates and scores these plans when reviewing applicants for their commitments to supporting workers and communities, including encouraging energy companies to recruit and hire women, partner with women-serving training organizations, and provide supportive services like childcare to workers. For more information, see Community Benefits Plan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | Department of Energy.
Good energy jobs that are accessible to all Americans advance energy justice, and DOE is committed to ensuring that our programs support equitable energy solutions for all communities. DOE’s Office of Energy Jobs is working with the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity to execute Department-wide policies to implement applicable legislation and Executive Orders that strengthen diversity and inclusion goals and improve equitable access to energy jobs and career-track training opportunities.