The Washington Post

The White House tried to explain its gender pay gap. It didn’t go well.


White House press secretary Josh Earnest struggled to explain the administration’s pay gap, which finds women making 88 cents on the dollar for what men earn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Yes, this is a case of deja vu all over again.

With the White House’s release of its payroll, administration officials once again are having to explain how it is that they can complain about the gender pay gap and then have one of their own.  It didn’t go so well the last time this contradiction came up in April.  And it didn’t go so well this time either. What the new salary release shows is that the administration has not narrowed the pay gap between men and women employees at the White House since 2009.

Our colleague Zachary Goldfarb crunched the numbers and found this:

The average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400, according to White House data released Tuesday. That is a gap of 13 percent.

In 2009, male employees made an average of about $82,000, compared to an average of $72,700 earned by female employees — also a 13 percent wage gap.

One of the key reasons is that more men hold the higher-paying, senior jobs in the White House, and more women hold the lower-paying, junior jobs.

And what does the White House say about these numbers?  It’s complicated.  At the daily press briefing, the explaining fell to Josh Earnest, the press secretary, who argued that men and women in similar jobs make the same pay.

He said there are a “variety of measures to try to get at whether or not workers are receiving equal pay for equal work.”

“I’d point out that of all of the departments here at the White House — there are 22 different departments — more than half of them are run by women. So there are women in senior positions who are being paid according — in line with those senior positions. That is also another way to sort of evaluate one’s commitment to pay equity.”

But also, another way to evaluate one’s commitment to pay equity is to look at how women are represented at each salary level, and by that measure, the White House has some work to do.

A  key sentence from Goldfarb’s analysis is this: Currently, there are 87 male White House officials who make more than $100,000, compared to 53 female White House officials. The gap narrows, but persists, at the highest echelons of the White House. Among the most senior officials, there are two more men than women.

All of which leaves this question:  Why aren’t there more women in the White House who make more than $100,000?

The White House has tended to pat itself on the back for having a gender gap that is smaller than the national average–77 cents nationally and 88 cents in the White House.  And along with Democrats, President Obama has pressed Republicans to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“What I think in some ways might be the most important way that one can demonstrate their commitment to pay equity: There’s paycheck fairness legislation that is sitting in Congress right now that’s being blocked by Republicans,” Earnest said. “The president is strongly supportive of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The president signed an executive order essentially applying the principles of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. That’s as much as he can do using his executive authority.”

Which leaves this question:  Can’t Obama also use his executive authority to hire more senior-level women in the White House who make over $100,000?

Earnest said there’s still work to be done for this White House.

“There is no doubt that there is more that we can do to improve our record here at the White House, but when compared to the private sector, our record stands pretty strong,” he said.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
Quoted
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

national

she-the-people

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.