Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, center, presents, from left, former NFL player Charlie Stukes; former U.Va. sports information director Rich Murray; All-American soccer player Robert Ukrop; and former ODU basketball coach Marianne Stanley. Behind the group is Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via Associated Press)
Columnist

Let’s tackle a perplexing word problem.

Two clerks have the same job.

Clerk A earns $194,341 a year. Clerk B earns $175,392 a year. Clerk A has been doing the job for nearly six years. Clerk B has been doing the job for 27 years.

To arrive at X, factor in the head-shaking disparity between the two salaries, allowing for experience.

If you got X = gender — bing-bing-bing — you’re a winner!

The high-earning Clerk A is G. Paul Nardo, a man who has been the clerk of Virginia’s House of Delegates since 2011. The lower-paid Clerk B is Susan Clarke Schaar, who has been working for Virginia’s Senate clerk office since 1974.

She took over the head job in 1990.

Same jobs, wildly different résumés, a salary gap of nearly $20,000.

There it is, folks. The insane arithmetic that nearly always calculates a woman’s worth in the workplace as less than a man’s. It is also one of the reasons that millions of men and women in the United States and across the globe marched last month.

Nardo and Schaar are public employees with public salaries, and the transparency of that sector should make pay disparity pretty minimal.

But this glaring inequity made news in the Richmond Times-Dispatch after state Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) introduced a budget amendment to raise Schaar’s salary to equal Nardo’s.

Schaar said she didn’t want to comment on how the discrepancy came to light.

But the truth is that for every Schaar, who will receive equal pay only after an act of the state Senate and House of Delegates, there are thousands of women who will never get that raise.

“It’s discouraging in 2017 to hear something like that, but sadly not surprising that it’s still going on,” said Charly Carter, executive director of the Maryland Working Families advocacy group.

Some critics say this pay gap — which usually goes with the statistic that women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes — is because women largely choose to work in low-paying fields such as teaching and nursing.

But Nardo and Schaar have the same job. And the disparity still occurs when women take jobs in male-dominated fields, says Emily Martin, who specializes in pay gap issues at the National Women’s Law Center.

Let’s start in Alabama, where Karin Woodard was vice president of information technology/management information systems at Medseek, a digital-marketing company for the health-care sector. Her boss told her that she was making less than the other vice presidents and that he would correct that. But he never did.

So Woodard kept working and getting great reviews before she learned that lower-ranked managers and directors were paid more than she was. Even a recent hire working for her made more than she did. When she brought up her concerns, the chief operating officer said that women did not belong in technical leadership, according to the lawsuit she filed against the company last year.

Or we can go to Connecticut, where Deborah Morse complained that even though she was a top regional manager at the aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, she earned thousands less than the men who had the same title.

When she asked about it, Morse’s supervisors told her that “ ‘girls’ who had husbands with jobs did not need to make as much money as men since men were the primary earners in the family,” according to the District Court decision in 2013.

Or we can check out Chicago, where Susan King was one of the most successful sales executives at the food brokerage Acosta Sales and Marketing but made less than the male executives at her rank. Some of the guys she outperformed were paid two or even three times what she made, according to the case filed in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the 2012 opinion, right after the chart showing King’s $46,850 salary compared to a comparable male colleague’s $122,004 pay, the court wrote: “The difference between men and women is striking.” The court remanded the case back to District Court.

Kathy Riser was 50 when she was working for QEP Energy in Utah, managing a 250-vehicle fleet, managing facilities and earning about $47,000. She logged more than 400 hours of overtime in 14 months, and it became clear that she was really doing two jobs. So the company broke off her fleet management duties and hired a 39-year-old man to take that part over. He walked in the door at $62,000, according to the lawsuit she filed in 2015. When the company tried to argue that it wasn’t pay discrimination because those were two different jobs, the 10th Circuit laughed and slapped that lawsuit right back into play.

Back here in Virginia, we can look at Ann Marie Reardon, an assistant attorney general for the state who never even made it into the salary range for her job title — between $70,000 and $90,000. She started at $62,000 in 2010 when she was hired by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and received $1,000 annual raises after glowing reviews. But in her five years there, she never matched the salaries of her male colleagues with similar experience and duties, according to the lawsuit filed last year against Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D).

All of the cases went to some stage of settlement, according to court records. And none of the women stayed at their jobs.

The companies fought the lawsuits, and in each case, a judge denied most of their arguments. Pratt & Whitney did adjust Morse’s salary after doing a company audit that found gender pay gaps, but Morse continued her legal claims for back pay.

Acosta Sales, Medseek and the Virginia attorney general’s office argued that the pay gap was based on starting salaries and experience, arguments that judges denied.

These women have to slog through the court system — often for years — to find resolution, often after being reprimanded at work for agitating.

“It really just goes to show that it’s critical for employers to be affirmatively looking at whether there are indefensible wage gaps and how they are paying men and women with similar job titles,” Martin said. “We have a lot of marching left to do.”

Twitter: @petulad