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Presidential hopeful Joe Biden hints at picking a woman for VP while Elizabeth Warren unveils pay equality policies

Democratic presidential candidates from left, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Senator Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell, at the second night of the Democratic primary debate in Miami. Picture by Brynn Anderson, Associated Press

Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden has said it would be "great" to have a female vice president.

However, Mr Biden, who served in that role under Barack Obama, would not say whether he would pick Senator Kamala Harris for the role if he is nominated for the White House.

Ms Harris, herself a candidate for the presidency, clashed with Mr Biden during the first debates of the Democratic primary contest that will determine Donald Trump's opponent in the 2020 election.

In an interview aired on Friday on CNN, Mr Biden said, "I think it helps having a woman on the ticket."

Mr Biden was asked whether it might be Ms Harris, who confronted him at last week's Democratic presidential debate over his stance on bussing in the 1970s.

Mr Biden said he was not going to get into specifics because "I don't even have the nomination".

Ms Harris surged in polls after the debate confrontation.

She criticised Mr Biden for recently highlighting his decades-old work with segregationist senators and his opposition to bussing students to school during the 1970s.

Bussing was seen as a way of overcoming racial divides in education.

Meanwhile, Democratic 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren has said that she would sign executive orders aimed at addressing the wage and employment leadership gap for "women of colour", if elected president.

Her proposals include punishing companies and contractors with historically poor records on diversity and equality by denying them contracts with the US federal government.

The Massachusetts senator detailed her latest plan in a post on Medium, positioning her ideas as moral and economic imperatives.

It is the latest in a parade of proposals that have become a trademark of her 2020 Democratic presidential bid and helped boost her in the primary polls, particularly among black women.

"Our economy should be working just as hard for women of colour as women of colour work for our economy and their families," Ms Warren wrote.

"For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of colour equal opportunities.

"It's time for the government to try to right those wrongs - and boost our economy in the process."

Ms Warren's plan comes on the eve of her appearance at Essence Fest, an annual music and cultural conference that is the largest gathering of black women in the country, with an expected 500,000 due to attend.

Also expected to speak this weekend at the conference in New Orleans are 2020 contenders Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg.

Ms Warren's proposals are aimed not only at black women but also at Latina, Asian and Native American women.

To address the under-representation of women of colour in leadership in the federal workforce, Ms Warren says she would issue an order to recruit from historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions; establish paid fellowships for federal jobs for minority and low-income applicants, including formerly incarcerated people; and require federal agencies to incorporate diversity into their strategic plans and mentorship efforts.

Another order targets companies and contractors disproportionately employing women of colour.

Under the proposal, Ms Warren would ban companies seeking federal contracts from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses, which she argues make it more difficult for employees to fight wage theft, discrimination and harassment, issues particularly affecting minority women.

Contractors also would be banned from asking applicants for past salary information and criminal histories and would have to pay a 15 dollar minimum hourly wage and offer benefits including paid family leave, fair scheduling and collective bargaining rights to all employees.

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