BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Equal pay for equal work. Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed executive orders to cut the gender pay gap.

Monique Griego has more on the historic changes many say are a long time coming.

While one order aims to combat pay discrimination, the other would make it easier to enforce laws already in effect.

President Obama signed two executive orders meant to help close the gap in men and women’s pay.

“I’d like to see women get paid as much as men,” said Lacey Campbell.

“Women have been on the back burner for a long time,” said Linda Maguire.

The president pointed to Census figures showing women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

“This is not just an issue of fairness, it’s also a family issue and an economic issue because women make up about half of our workforce,” Obama said.

The first order enables federal contract workers to openly discuss their salaries without employer reprisal. The second requires federal contractors to report salary data to the Labor Department broken down by gender and race.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake applauded the president’s decision to push ahead without Congress.

“Almost half of the households in our country are led by women and primary breadwinners are women,” she said.

Critics called the move hypocritical, pointing to studies showing even female White House staffers make less than the male staffers–88 cents to the dollar.

The Obama administration has said the gap is due to differences in job experience, education and hours worked.

Republicans say those same differences affect private employers.

“Many women seek jobs that provide more flexibility for their families over more money, which is the choice that I made as a young working mom,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

The GOP also called the orders a ploy for women’s votes and said the statistics were misleading.

The president’s move comes the day before the Senate is set to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.

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