Obama's move on gender pay gap seen as first step in uphill battle

By Patricia Reaney NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advocates fighting to close the U.S. gender pay gap hailed President Barack Obama's proposal to expand salary reporting requirements but said much more was needed to end wage discrimination. Under the plan, companies with 100 employees or more must provide data on hours worked and salary ranges, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year to help identify and combat pay discrimination. Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said the data would be useful in passing legislation, making companies comply with existing laws and proving the gender pay gap is not a myth. "The wage gap is a persistent, pernicious problem, and it has been around for awhile," Maatz said in an interview. "We still have a lot to do to change it, but this is an excellent step forward." Maatz said other measures, including non-retaliation policies at companies so women can ask about discrepancies in pay and changes in how salaries are determined, would accelerate progress. "Not using salary histories but rather looking at resumes and taking into account experience and paying for what the job is worth to the company will do a lot to help close the gender pay gap," Maatz added. Women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes for equal work, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Although the pay gap has narrowed since 1960, when women made about 60 cents for every dollar, the institute calculates that if change continues at the same pace, women will not reach equal pay until 2059. The current situation is worse for black women, at 60 cents, and Latina women, at 55 cents, said Vivien Labaton, co-founder of the non-profit Make It Work campaign for economic security for working families. Labaton said making salary range data that companies submit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accessible to their employees would speed up change. "What Make It Work is calling for is a publicly available database that would show what employers pay for different jobs based on sex, race and ethnicity," she said. The commission issues only aggregated data that does not reveal any particular employer's or employees' information. "We do know that the more transparency you have, the smaller the gender pay gap there will be," said Maatz. (Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)