Carpe Diem

February 20 is ‘White House Equal Pay Day’: The date in 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013

whitehouseLast summer, President Obama proclaimed August 26, 2013 to be Women’s Equality Day and called upon Americans to celebrate the achievements of women and promote full gender equality, here’s an excerpt of his presidential proclamation:

From the beginning, my Administration has been committed to advancing the historic march toward gender equality. We have fought for equal pay, prohibited gender discrimination in America’s healthcare system, and established the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Yet we have more work to do. A fair deal for women is essential to a thriving middle class, but while women graduate college at higher rates than men, they still make less money after graduation and often have fewer opportunities to enter well-paid occupations or receive promotions. On average, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. That is why the first bill I signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It is also why I established the National Equal Pay Task Force, which is cracking down on equal pay violations at a record rate. And it is why I issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for a Government-wide strategy to close any gender pay gap within the Federal workforce.  

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 26, 2013, as Women’s Equality Day. I call upon the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of women and promote gender equality in our country.

MP: To promote gender equality in America, I hereby call upon President Obama to address a significant gender wage gap in the federal workforce, specifically for women working on his staff at the White House. According to a detailed analysis of salary data from the “2013 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff,” the 229 female employees in the Obama White House are being paid a median annual salary of $65,000, compared to a median annual salary of nearly $74,000 for the 229 male White House staffers (see chart above). Paraphrasing the president’s own words, “On average, women working in the White House are paid only 88 cents for every dollar paid to men.” That’s better than the overall 23% gender pay gap cited by the president as a national average, but still leaves a 12% gender pay gap for women working at the Obama White House. Disturbingly, “equal pay” at the White House remains a distant goal, but is not yet a reality.

Because women working at Obama’s White House earn 12% less than men on average, they must unfortunately work much longer than male staffers for the same amount of pay. On average, the typical female staffer earning $65,000 last year will have to work nearly eight additional weeks into 2014 to earn the same income that the average man earned working at the White House last year of $73,729. In the tradition of the National Committee on Pay Equity which identifies and recognizes “Equal Pay Day” every year (and which has been endorsed annually by President Obama in every year since he was elected with presidential proclamations in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) I hereby proclaim that White House Equal Pay Day will take place this year tomorrow on February 20, 2014. That date symbolizes how far into the year 2014 a typical female White House staffer will have to continue working to earn the $73,729 that her male counterpart earned in 2013. By creating the White House Equal Pay Day, we can recognize the injustice of the gender wage gap at the White House by marking how far into each new year female White House employees have to work just to make what men earned in the previous year.

Hopefully, creating a public awareness event like White House Equal Pay Day can help to inform the public that the gap between men’s and women’s wages extends all the way to the Obama White House.  As President Obama reminds us, “we have more work to do” on the historic march toward full gender equality. Addressing and closing the significant gender wage gap of 12% at the White House might be a good place for the President to start some of that unfinished work. And perhaps the National Committee on Pay Equity can supplement its annual Equal Pay Day by recognizing and promoting a new White House Equal Pay Day until the gender pay gap at the White House is finally addressed.

Update: The post has been updated to reflect the fact that there are 239 women working at the White House and 239 men, for a total of 478 White House staffers who were making positive salaries in 2013.

9 thoughts on “February 20 is ‘White House Equal Pay Day’: The date in 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013

  1. While I’m all for bashing Obama on anything and everything, most of which he deserves, the truth is the “gender pay gap” does not exist. I assume this is a tongue in cheek poke at a liberal/socialist for perpetuating the “gender pay gap” myth when they know there is no such thing.

    • It’s as real as the thing it’s satirizing. That is, if you believe that the difference in nominal income between women and men in America is evidence of discrimination against women in America, then you must conclude that a difference in the White House is evidence of discrimination within the White House.

  2. Thanks Mark! Always enjoy your commentary.

    Bob, the most recent data I’ve seen for 2012 is that women earn 81% or 84% of men depending on whether you look at weekly earnings or hourly earnings based on the “raw data” from BLS.

    The key however is that the “raw data” does not consider the usual variables that most rational people would consider when attempting to determine whether compensation was fairly determined. We hear from the media all the time that a man and a woman doing the same job should be compensated similarly. Most of us would agree with that statement, except that’s not what is being measured. The “raw data” make no adjustments for job position, industry, experience, or a host of other variables which go into determining just compensation.
    When these common sense variables are adjusted for, the “pay gap” disappears.

    The Department of Labor contracted with CONSAD Research Corporation in 2009 to study this issue. In a report titled “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women”, both CONSAD and the Dept. of Labor conclude that there is likely no gender pay gap when the relevant variables are considered

  3. Beyond the editorial vagaries of the author, the CONSAD report concludes that “[s]tatistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that
    collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and
    thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.”

    That is patently not zero. Arguing that a 5% wage gap is an acceptable difference in wages between genders is one thing; claiming that there is no data-supported gap is another.

  4. “the ‘raw data’ make no adjustments for job position, industry, experience, or a host of other variables which go into determining just compensation.
    When these common sense variables are adjusted for, the “pay gap” disappears.”

    Every argument I’ve seen for the existence of a wage gap claims to have adjusted for those variables and more.

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