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CNN Today

Trying to Bridge the Gap: President Clinton Proposes Measures to Fight Wage Disparities Between the Sexes

Aired January 24, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Weekly wages for women have improved over the past 20 years, but women still earn significantly less than men. President Clinton today unveiled a $27-million proposal to try to close that gender wage gap. A similar proposal of only half that amount went nowhere in Congress last year.

Here are the figures. In 1979, each week women, on average, earned only 62-and-a-half cents to the dollar compared to men. By '98, the weekly gap had shrunk to about 76.3 cents on the dollar. There are also far more women in the work force now. Of the 65 million new jobs since 1964, nearly two-thirds of them, some 40 million jobs, went to women. Most of those jobs were in services, retail sales and government.

CNN's Chris Black has more on the president's latest initiative to close the wage gap.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS BLACK, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Clinton knows something about working women.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the son of a working mother, the grandson of a working grandmother, the husband of a working wife and my daughter plans to follow suit.

BLACK: The president is calling for stepped-up enforcement of federal laws requiring women get equal pay for equal work.

CLINTON: We want to make sure that in every field of endeavor everyone knows that those who work hard and play by the rules will have the chance to make the most of their abilities.

BLACK: World Cup soccer champ Michelle Akers and her teammates are boycotting training because members of the less-successful U.S. men's soccer team are paid more.

MICHELLE AKERS, U.S. WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM: The battle is not over. We're still being discriminated against. We still are not paid equally for the equal amount of work that we do.

BLACK: The U.S. Soccer Federation says the compensation issues between men and women are not comparable. White House officials say Akers was invited to the White House because the soccer dispute dramatizes the problem affected millions of other women in the United States, women like Sharon Long. She worked as a purchasing agent for a Maryland heating and air conditioning contractor for 10 years. When she complained she was being paid less than half the salary of her male coworkers, her boss fired her. She eventually won her case against the employer before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

SHARON LONG: And I know that there are many more women out there that are going through the same kind of experience that I survived.

BLACK: The president wants to beef up education and enforcement, to teach 3,000 employers about equal pay laws, hire 1,000 new inspectors to respond to wage discrimination complaints and develop public service announcements. The initiative would also train women in nontraditional jobs, particularly high technology and the building trades.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACK: President -- a similar initiative went no where when Mr. Clinton -- Mr. Clinton made it last year. The president is reviving this proposal in hopes that high-profile cases like the womens' soccer team will put pressure on Congress to act in this election year.

Chris Black, CNN, reporting live from the White House.

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