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Hack the Pay Gap

Pay equality “power shifting” with Commerce data

“When women are not paid fairly,” President Obama said, “not only do they suffer, but so do their families.”

We at Commerce are excited to be part of the solution – and to have our work in harnessing our vast troves of data for innovation, job creation and advancing the public good recognized and made real. That’s why I’m so pleased that on July 19, Secretary Pritzker and US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith hosted “Hack the Pay Gap Demo Day” at the White House showcasing our data access and usability efforts.

The event challenged data scientists, developers and designers to use the Commerce Data Service-built application, MIDAAS, to apply Census income, population and geographic data to create new products and strategies for combating gender-based pay disparities.

For much more about the event, please see:

MIDAAS, you probably know, stands for Making Income Data More Accessible As A Service. As the WSJ piece described MIDAAS, “It opens up income-related data from the [Census] American Community Survey, which previously was locked in two massive spreadsheets that would take academic researchers months to comb through.”

In short, MIDAAS is a perfect example of how we’re making our data much easier and more intuitive for the general public to search and consume.

The Hack the Pay Gap event showcased seven projects by innovative start-ups that are using MIDAAS to help employers and employers advance income equality:

  • What’s My Pay Gap is an app that helps women see how the gender pay gap affects them individually depending on their race, occupation and age. “No one want so understand the average weather in the U.S. The same goes for your pay,” Secretary Pritzker said.
  • Virtual Reality Salary Negotiation Simulator is really cutting edge. Variable Labs, teaming with the American Assn. of University Women, is creating a tool for women to practice salary negotiations with a virtual employer. It provides users with individualized income data, takes them to the negotiating table, and offers a safe place to practice and build confidence. The app even monitors body language, tone, and other signals, and from that provides feedback on how to be a more effective negotiator.
  • PowerShift is a tool to help women negotiate their pay offers by providing clear, useful salary breakdown and range data on what men in in a similar situation are making, and legal info about fair pay.
  • BumpAhead is an “empathy building” game, where you walk in the shoes of a new mother, to demonstrate how the high costs of childcare widens the gender pay gap.
  • Raise Above the Wage is a Chrome browser extension that helps users experience the pay gap personally by choosing a profile and viewing how the cost of an item changes based on the earnings of a particular race and gender – illustrating how earning less really turns out costing more.
  • Freelancer Economy Equalizer Kit seeks to advance pay equity in the fast-growing “gig” and independent worker economy with a set of software services to help employers and job candidates to take action to improve fairness and reduce any gender pay gaps. The FrEE kit provides hiring managers and candidates with data about pay rates for comparable work so negotiation is informed by objective, gender-neutral standards.
  • Aware offers a third-party survey and next, a data analytics platform, to help companies know what information related to the gender pay gap they can collect from employees, encourage them to address the gaps, and be more in tune with their employees around pay issues.

“Numbers have an important story to tell,” data visualization pioneer Stephen Few said. “They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” Activities like Hack the Pay Gap are crucial not only to finding solutions, but to telling the story of our Commerce data initiatives. Why is this important? So we can inform and inspire more businesses, innovators and problem solvers to grab our data and run with it.

Many thanks to the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, and the Hack the Pay Gap participants for helping to bring our data work to life.

Special thanks to everyone who joined in the event to make it a success, including USCTO Megan Smith, the US Digital Service, the 18F folks at GSA, as well as the Kauffman Foundation, Accenture, Google, Golden Seeds (an investment firm focusing on women-owned business) and many others.

And of course, a bottomless thanks to all at the Department and the Commerce Data Service for making Hack the Pay Gap possible – and magic happen every day.

Thanks for reading.

Justin Antonipillai - Counselor to Secretary Penny Pritzker, with the Delegated Duties of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs


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