• White House officials blocked an Obama-era initiative to collect salary data sorted by employees' gender, race, and ethnicity.
  • Ivanka Trump, who has been an outspoken supporter of women's equality in the workforce, supported the move.
  • Critics say the wage gap will persist if we fail to enact policies that promote equality.

Much is assumed about the pay gap, but high-quality data is hard to come by.

That was set to change in 2018, when an Obama-era rule requiring businesses to collect salary data sorted by employees' gender, race, and ethnicity was supposed to go into effect.

On Tuesday, however, White House officials said they would block the rule, calling it "enormously burdensome" to companies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Equal-pay advocates argue, however, that pay discrepancies among employees create an undue burden for those paid less for equal work.

Private companies with 100 or more employees, as well as federal contractors with 50 or more, already report demographic data, including employees' gender, race, and ethnicity, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The newly blocked initiative would have required employers to add aggregated salary data as well.

Companies took issue with the rule when it was introduced, claiming that the data would not shed light on the reasons behind pay discrepancies. Employers feared that reporting the information would be a costly undertaking as well, because demographic data and payroll data are usually housed in different software systems.

Ivanka Trump, a self-described "advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls,"supported the White House's decision, telling The Journal in a statement:

"'Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results,' Ms. Trump said. 'We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.'"

Some local governments have taken matters into their own hands. In New York City, for example, a new law bars public and private employers from asking job candidates about their current or previous salary. The city's public advocate, Letitia James, introduced the legislation, and she says that discussing previous salary information increases wage discrimination.

"Being underpaid once should not condemn one to a lifetime of inequity," James said in a press release when the bill was passed in April. "We will never close the wage gap unless we continue to enact proactive policies that promote economic justice and equity."

In the US, a woman earns on average $0.79 for every dollar a man makes, and the gap is larger for women of color. But the pay gap is not consistent across industries, companies, and positions, making the discrepancy difficult to root out and resolve. More data presumably would help achieve the goal of wage equality.

It's well documented that low-wage earners suffer unduly from this gap, but even among the highest earners in the US, women earn on average $0.39 for every dollar made by men, according to an analysis of the 2015 American Community Survey by the labor-economics research firm Job Search Intelligence.

Top earners men and womenAndy Kiersz/Business Insider

Taking steps to close the wage gap -- especially among mothers -- is something Trump, the author of the book "Women Who Work," has long spoken about. Last year, while her father was campaigning for president, she told Business Insider:

"Women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of American households. So I think we're at this point where we're doing a lot and a lot is falling upon us, and we need support, and we need relief. And one of the things I'm very excited for is a policy plan that my father's campaign is going to be rolling out shortly to articulate exactly what he would do to address issues, predominantly wage inequality in America and proposals specific to childcare as well."

So far, a concrete plan to reduce wage inequality hasn't materialized from the Trump administration.

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.