At White House, Wide Pay Gap Between Male and Female Employees

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Common Dreams

At White House, Wide Pay Gap Between Male and Female Employees

Women in Obama administration paid 13 percent less

(Photo: Grauke/O/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Gender disparities in White House salaries have persisted all throughout President Barack Obama's two terms in office, according to recent data.

An analysis by the Washington Post found that with average salaries of $88,600 for men in the White House and $78,400 for women, the income gap under Obama has stayed steady at 13 percent. Although paychecks for both groups have increased in recent years, the disparity remains the same as it was in 2009, when Obama was in his first term — and made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law as president.

The figures stand in contrast to Obama's previous optimistic language about increasing pay equality around the country, where the overall gap is 23.5 percent.

The administration stated that one of the main reasons for the White House disparity is the fact that more men hold senior positions than women and are paid accordingly. Women in high-level roles receive equal salaries to their peers, White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said.

"At the White House, we have equal pay for equal work," Santillo stated. "Men and women in equivalent roles earn equivalent salaries, and over half of our departments are run by women."

Yet the White House does not apply similar factors to the national pay gap average, which decreases when taking into account lower seniority levels, job tenure, or hours worked per week.

Former press secretary Jay Carney made similar remarks in April when asked about the White House wage gap discovered in a study by the American Enterprise Institute.

"We have 16 department heads. Over half of them are women, all of whom make the same salary as their male counterparts," Carney said at the time. "And when it comes to the bottom line that women who do the same work as men have to be paid the same, there is no question that that is happening here at the White House at every level."

However, the fact that the percentage can be manipulated to appear larger or smaller does not mean that it is not pervasive and consistent. The National Women's Law Center found that women are paid less than men in all but one of 265 major occupations. Some reasons for the disparity include: discrimination, particularly for women of color; "occupational segregation," or the tendency for women to work in lower-paying industries due to lack of access to skilled-trade jobs; and the expectation for women to be unpaid, primary caregivers for family members. These factors join together to create particularly difficult circumstances for low-income women, who face both financial hardships and a lack of employer support; a 2008 study found that 48 percent of working mothers had no option but to miss work when they had to take care of sick children or family members.

In response to the recent statistics, officials pointed to recent promotions of female staffers to more high-level positions. However, they also said that they have more work to do to increase pay equality in the White House.

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