Pay Equity in the Obama White House

July 08, 2009

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Noting that women make just 78 cents for every dollar men earn and “women of color, even less,” the president said that the Ledbetter Act would establish that
 

There are no second-class citizens in our workplaces and that it’s not just unfair and illegal, it’s bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion, or disability.

 
Those are nice words, but can Obama back them up? As president, he is chief executive of the executive branch and directly responsible for the employees of the West Wing. He can talk the talk, but does the president walk the walk? How well is President Obama doing with promoting gender and pay equity in the White House?

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden lead applause for Lilly Ledbetter at the signing of the Fair Pay Act in January.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden lead applause for Lilly Ledbetter at the signing of the Fair Pay Act in January.

Pretty well, it turns out. Last week, the White House released its Annual Report To Congress On White House Office Staff, a fascinating list of the 487 employees who work in the West Wing. Being the nerd that I am, I downloaded the CSV file and imported it into an Access database so that I could play with the data.

The resulting table included the employee’s name, status, salary, pay basis, and title. I went through the table and, to the best of my ability, added an “M” or “F” to denote the employee’s gender wherever possible. (I excluded 34 names from the data set as I could not determine their gender based on their first name alone or by doing a very quick Google search. I erred on the side of caution.)

Of the remaining employees, there were 229 men and 224 women. The men’s mean average salary was $84,728.37, while the women’s mean average salary was $78,816.99. This means that in the Obama White House women make $0.93 for every $1 men make, much higher than the national average. Not perfect, but progress, nonetheless.

The nerd in me toiled on, determined to see what else I could mine out of that data. After playing around with tables, queries, and reports in Access, I came up with some nifty factoids. For instance, women are 53 percent (57 out of 107 workers) of those making $45,000 or less but only 39 percent (11 of 28 workers) who make $172,000 or more. Salaries for both genders varied in the middle but tended to balance each other out.

Beyond the basics, you could spend hours (and probably days) running queries and examining the results. In a surprising example, 10 people have the job title “Counsel,” including two men, seven women, and one person of undetermined gender. The men have an average salary of $65,000.00 per year while the women have an average salary of $136,028.57 per year. (I had to redo the numbers twice; the women really do make more than twice what the men do!)

Overall, it appears the Obama administration is doing a pretty job of working toward gender and pay equity. Still, there is always more work to do, even at the White House.

Learn more about AAUW’s position on pay equity and be sure to check out the database for yourself. You also can take action now to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182) so we can close the pay gap even further.

Source tables:

Guest Blogger Danine Spencer has a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and is a freelance writer, focusing on politics, women’s rights, and health care.

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By:   |   July 08, 2009

5 Comments

  1. Jo Ann Cummings says:

    Thanks for doing the research. I was curious myself, but not enough to put in the work that you did. Very interesting results.

  2. Ruth Wahtera says:

    Thanks, Danine. Nice work and an interesting post. I’d like to know more about that “counsel” position. Are these comparable jobs or just catch-all titles?

  3. Thanks for doing the research. I was curious myself, but not enough to put in the work that you did. Very interesting results.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  4. Ann MacKay says:

    Great analysis. Thanks for your hard work. I know what it takes to do what you did.

  5. Ruth,

    The ten “Counsel” positions were just entitled “Counsel”. There are other job titles with “Counsel” in it (Deputy Assistant and Deputy Counsel to the President, Counsel to the President and Director of Office for Health Care Reform, Tax Counsel). Those ten positions only say “Counsel” but don’t give any other information.

    There were lots of other examples I could have given, but I tried to keep the blog post under 500 words… editorial guidelines! :)

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