Maryland House Speaker, Michael E. Busch, center, other Democrats have made closing the gender pay gap a top priority this year, calling into question their own payrolls. (Marvin Joseph/WASHINGTON POST)

Maryland lawmakers are weighing legislation to address gender pay inequities in a state that has one of the nation’s smallest pay gaps between male and female full-time workers. According to a Washington Post review of pay data, the gap is even smaller for full-time employees of the state legislature, but it grows wider for employees of Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, where men tend to hold the more senior positions.

The median annual salary of Maryland women who work full time is $50,481, or 85 percent of the median salary for men in the state, according to an analysis of U.S. census data by the American Association of University Women. Nationwide, women make 79 cents on the dollar.

This metric does not take into account the different types of jobs, varying levels of experience and education, or women who lose seniority and promotion opportunities when they leave the workforce temporarily to care for children, which they do in larger numbers than men. Still, it is widely used as a measuring stick.

Experts say that Maryland has a lower pay gap because of its highly educated workforce and because a significant share of workers are employed by the federal government, where the pay gap tends to be smaller.

“Any gap is unequal and unacceptable,” said Sen. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), one of the sponsors of the equal-pay legislation making its way through the General Assembly.

The bills would prohibit private-sector employers from punishing workers who talk to each other about their salaries and would bar employers from providing women less-favorable opportunities for advancement.

In an effort to assess how the state government compares with Maryland employers overall, The Washington Post examined 2015 pay data for employees of the General Assembly and of Hogan (R). Among the findings:

●Hogan employed an equal number of women and men among his 90 workers last year, but the median salary of female workers was 68 percent of the salaries of their male counterparts. That is because men dominated the highest-paid jobs in Hogan’s office.

• The General Assembly, which employs aides to lawmakers and staff to the independent Department of Legislative Services, performed better than the state overall, with female full-time workers making 91 cents on the dollar. However, male full-time employees still hold a disproportionate majority of the high-paying jobs: They make up 43 percent of the workforce, but 58 percent of employees earning six-figure salaries.

●The General Assembly has a mixed record in paying similar salaries to women and men with the same job titles. For example, the median salary of the 60 male auditors is $10,000 higher than that of the 27 female auditors. But there is virtually no male-female pay disparity among the part-time secretaries, many of whom work only during the 90-day legislative session. They make about $29,000 a year and are mostly female.

●Male and female full-time employees of the Department of Legislative Services, which runs the operations of the General Assembly and analyzes legislation and state finances, have mostly equal salaries when length of service is taken into account — with the exception of management positions.

Male managers making more than $100,000 outnumber female managers making more than $100,000 by 2 to 1 in the department — and are paid more in three out of four divisions.

The governor’s office

Just one of Hogan’s 10 highest-paid employees in 2015 was female, and only four of the 25 employees who made six-figure salaries were women.

There are relatively few instances in which employees in the governor’s office share the same title. But in those cases, women are paid equally — or more — than their male counterparts. For example, the 11 female special assistants had a median salary of $71,000, compared with $50,000 for the seven male special assistants. Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said he did not know any specific reason for the disparity.

Records show that Hogan’s predecessor, Martin O’Malley (D), had more women in his inner circle during the final year of his term — and they earned closer to what men earned.

Mayer said Hogan is committed to having a qualified staff that is representative of the people of Maryland. He objected to comparisons with O’Malley, saying that several positions have remained empty since Hogan took office 14 months ago.

Hogan has brought women into key posts in the administration, Mayer said, including his Cabinet. Women hold five of 24 spots in the Cabinet — the same ratio as during O’Malley’s last year in office.

“There’s no reason to have such disparity in the governor’s office,” said Lisa Maatz, a policy adviser for the American Association of University Women. “That’s a shame — and frankly, a loss for the state.”

The legislature

Pay equity is a top priority for House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who says his mother made half of what her male co-workers made at Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration.

The median salary for full-time male workers in the General Assembly is $67,000, compared with $61,000 for women — a ratio of 91 cents on the dollar.

“We are trying to work to get as close as we can to pay equity,” Busch said. “Our goal is to make it 100 percent.”

Busch and other officials say differences in compensation partially reflect that highly paid senior staffers hired decades ago are more likely to be male, since women were less likely to be considered for such positions.

Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) employ women as their chiefs of staff.

Legislative Services

The General Assembly’s largest disparities are in Department of Legislative Services positions such as auditors, systems analysts and managers — all jobs historically dominated by men.

There are 17 male managers in the audit division compared with five female managers, and managers are paid more — which means that in that division overall, men earn considerably more than women.

Executive Director Warren Deschenaux said he is intent on placing more women in management. But he also noted that some jobs in the agency are not family friendly — it is tough to offer telecommuting options or paid leave during the hectic legislative session, for example — which could disproportionately affect the number of women who try to advance.

“It’s the technical people that are the largest areas where we can strive to make improvements,” Deschenaux said

Heidi Hartmann, an economist and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said a key to eliminating pay gaps in the public sector is to encourage women to look up salary information that is usually part of the public record. That way, they can negotiate better compensation.