D.C. women get equal pay — unless they head a trade group

April 11, 2013

Washington women might have been feeling good about themselves on Tuesday, when we let them know they faced the narrowest wage gap in the country.

For every rule, there's an exception. In this case, it turns out it's women who head major trade associations.

While the National Women’s Law Center’s state-by-state analysis of Census Bureau statistics shows women in D.C. get, on average, 90.4 cents for every dollar men earn, CEO Update just released statistics Thursday showing the five highest-paid female trade group executives earn just 34 cents compared to their male counterparts.

Before you start feeling sorry for Pam Bailey (who heads the Grocery Manufacturers Association) or Karen Ignani (president of America’s Health Insurance Plans), keep in mind they earn an average of $1.59 million.

Still, compared to the average $4.67 million the top five male trade association heads take home, the contrast is stark. Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute gets $6,736,627 a year, according to CEO Update's survey, while Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce receives $4,916,571. Bailey, who earns more than any other female trade association head, makes $1,979,496.

Granted, lobbying for the nation's electric utilities isn't the same thing as representing grocery stores inside the Beltway. But given that the utility industry has suffered a string of regulatory defeats under the Obama administration -- new limits on mercury and other toxic emissions, soot and pending greenhouse gas rules come to mind -- is Kuhn actually worth 3.4 times as much as Bailey?

Perhaps some of Washington's highest-paid women will start a protest movement soon, if they can squeeze it in between their Capitol Hill lobbying visits and downtown lunches.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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