Pay Equality for Men and Women in the Federal Government:
Are We There Yet?

The merit system principles at 5 U.S.C. §2301(b) call for a workforce that is “representative of all segments of society” and selection and advancement “determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, and skills.” Drawing on surveys and statistical analysis, the May 2011 report, “Women in the Federal Government:  Ambitions and Achievements,” examines the Federal Government’s progress and challenges in the equitable treatment and advancement of women.

Has the Federal Government made progress?
Yes. Over time, women have become better represented at higher grade levels and in supervisory and executive positions, reflecting increased employment of women in the professional and administrative occupations that afford the greatest opportunities for earnings and advancement. However, compared to their overall representation in the Federal workforce, women remain underrepresented among the top grade levels, particularly those with supervisory responsibilities. Accordingly, pay differences between women and men have been reduced, although not eliminated.

Representation of Women in High-Level and Supervisory Positions

Representation of Women in High-Level and Supervisory Positions

In terms of work environment, women in the Federal Government have become more likely to believe that they are selected and evaluated on their merits. Compared to 1992, fewer women indicated that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of sex, and more women agreed with the statement that “Women and men are respected equally.”

MSPB analyses of promotion rates found that women are about as likely to be selected for advancement as men when factors such as occupation, education, length of service, and supervisory experience are held equal, suggesting that the harmful effects of overt bias and subtle stereotyping have indeed diminished.

What remains to be done?
Women remain less likely than men to be employed in high-paying occupations, and sex-based discrimination and stereotypes have not yet disappeared. Yet most issues important to the advancement of women are universal. Actions that Federal agencies can take include—

Representation of Women in High-Level and Supervisory Positions
- Provide continuing feedback and development to employees to help them understand and meet requirements for advancement.
- Improve the recruitment, selection, and training of supervisors.
- Make informed use of both internal and external sources of talent.
- Avoid reliance on stereotypes and assumptions in day-to-day HR management; focus on ability and results.
- Remain vigilant against sex-based discrimination and ensure that avenues of redress are accessible and trusted.
-Maximize flexibility in work arrangements and job requirements.

For the full report, please visit