Sisterhood Blog

In The White House, Women Earn on Average Less Than Men

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

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There’s nothing more unsettling than the public discussion of money, and how much or little of it one makes. Not long ago, competitive salary analysis among urban professionals was a brutal sport. The fangs of the once-well-paid have retracted in these tough times, though, as the employed are simply ecstatic to have a place to call work.

Still, July 1st must have been a bit awkward for White House staffers who learned the exact amount that each of their fellow colleagues delivered to the bank. The Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff Salaries is of voyeuristic interest to myriad wonks in Washington, and even to us civilians in other cities. The range is significant and surprising to many, as the prestige of working in the West Wing is more important then the amount of bacon one brings (many of these people could probably have lucrative success in the private sector)—the lowest paid employees make 30K, and the highest more than 170K.

Bless you, Ariel, from the Feministing Community Blog for making known a startling distinction that the report failed to provide, that on average, women working in the White House earn less than men. Nearly $9,500 less. Jobs in the White House are evenly split (of the 487 staffers surveyed, 49.7% are women) but women fill more lower level positions: secretaries, assistants, and otherwise, meaning that fewer of them are found on the senior staff. Ariel’s meticulous spread sheet breaks down these numbers and color codes the West Wingers by gender.

Less attention has been paid to the gender wage gap since President Obama’s well-photographed and heavily documented first legislative act. He signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was drawn to facilitate lawsuits for discriminations experienced years earlier. This act applies not only to women, but to anyone who has been discriminated against in their place of employment.

The pay equity issue also affects Jewish communal organizations, which Debra Nussbaum Cohen has written about in this very space, but sadly, the topic has nearly disappeared from the conversation in recent months. In Mr. Obama’s White House, women are paid 10 cents more on the dollar than the U.S. Census Bureau estimated last year, but they are still earn 12 cents per dollar less than male colleagues in the most recognizable office building in the land. The salary debate is not over, and in light of this new data, we should begin discussing again how to close the salary gap between men and women.



Comments
Irene Plotzker Tue. Jul 28, 2009

If you look at how the salaries are distributed (i.e., plot salary versus no. of women at that salary on one curve, then the same plot for men), the issue doesn't seem to be a lot of women at lower levels (around $36K) but a male-female gap around $75K-125K. Wonder why? (I have an EXCEL plot but can't paste it in for some reason.)

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