Women of the White House: How Equal Is Pay at the Oval Office?

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ash_crow/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ash_crow/

With Equal Pay Day just passed and President Barack Obama’s signature on two Executive Orders that he says will “prevent workplace discrimination and empower workers to take control over negotiations regarding their pay,” the gender pay gap has snatched the policy spotlight. It’s especially relevant in light of the minimum wage increase to $10.10 that President Obama and Democrats in Congress have been trying to push for, with Obama appealing to state governments as well and having already raised the federal contractors’ minimum wage. But some of the equal pay facts are notably being pushed back on the White House itself, regarding just how big the gender gap is within the White House staff.

The White House reports that on average, women make only 77 cents per every dollar that a man would earn, and that this is a number that has not changed since 2002. “Women now make up roughly half of America’s workforce and graduate at a higher rate than men from college and graduate schools — but even professional women make less than men in the same occupation with equivalent degrees,” writes the Obama administration, going on to emphasize the pay gap expansion that is seen as workers age; after 35 women earn only 75 to 80 percent of what men make, while prior to that they earn 90 percent, reports the White House.

This is an issue that is important to not only women and children, but also men, or so reports NPR, as two-income households would benefit from greater equality in pay for women. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 60 percent of parents in 2012 were both working, and even 50 percent of couples without children had both partners employed. On top of that, almost a fourth of women made more than their husbands. Women may be the ones making less, but that doesn’t mean families and couples aren’t feeling the effects as well.

Opponents seem to be taking two tactics against the push for Congress to sign the Paycheck Fairness bill and the simultaneous pressure on a minimum wage change. Some look to refocus on the economy and the job market. “On this Equal Pay Day, I would urge us to stop politicizing women, and let’s start focusing on those policies that are actually going to help women and everyone in this country have a better life,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) on Tuesday in an interview with CNN.

Other opponents have turned their eyes on the White House’s own payroll, pointing out that it has its own disparity in pay between the genders. The gap has improved from female workers making 83 percent of what males made in 1991, but still sits below 100 percent equality. Female federal workers at the beginning of Obama’s term made a median wage of 93 percent of that of their male counterparts,  the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board reports.

The American Enterprise Institute put present day median salary for women in the White House at 88 percent. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to the number, saying, “I think that those studies look at the aggregate of everyone on staff, and that includes from the most junior levels to the most senior,” but continuing to address the gap. “What I can tell you is that we have — as an institution here — have aggressively addressed this challenge. And obviously, though, at the 88 cents that you cite, that is not 100, but it is better than the national average. 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.”

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