During the past couple of weeks, the White House has been in the news for issues surrounding wage equality. While the the number of employees working for the White House is almost evenly split, with about 47 percent of the 359 regular employees being female and 53 percent male, the wage gap is alive and well.
Nationwide in 2016, Labor Department data shows that women earned about 82 cents for every dollar a man made. However, women working in the White House earn an average salary of 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male colleagues, a CNN analysis found. The average salary among men working in the White House was nearly $104,000, according to an analysis of the White House’s annual report to Congress, whereas for women, it was about $83,000. That’s $21,000 less on average.
This disparity is not limited to the current administration, but it is more pronounced. A 2014 CBS report found that the average female employee in the Obama White House earned about $78,400, while the average male employee earned about $88,600. That’s a gap of 13 percent – the same percentage as in 2009.
While recent statistics find the gender pay gap exists in almost every congressional district, the White House continues to lag behind the private sector. It’s unfortunate, because the economic impact of equal pay for women is significant enough that it should be at the top of strategies for economic growth. According to a recent report from the McKinsey Group, the United States could add up to $4.3 trillion in annual GDP in 2025 if women attain full gender equality. The McKinsey report, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States, finds that every US state and city can add at least 5 percent to their GDP by advancing the economic potential of women. Half of US states have the potential to add more than 10 percent, and the country’s 50 largest cities can increase GDP by 6 to 13 percent.
The White House Fact Sheet on Closing the Gender Wage Gap also reminds us that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. The wage disparity isn’t limited to the C-Suite or those walking the halls of the White House. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reports that female workers who struggle economically often face a steeper climb to prosperity or even security than their male counterparts, and closing the wage gap could slash poverty in half for families. Researchers estimate that the country’s number of working single mothers who live in poverty would drop from about 30% to 15% if they earned on average as much as comparably skilled men.
Ultimately, we need to point out the pay injustices at every level in our communities and the workplace, strengthen our equal pay laws so that women are better able to fight pay discrimination, and build ladders to better paying jobs for women by removing barriers to male-dominated fields. Together we need to use the power of our voices, keep the conversation going, and support legislation. Most importantly we need recognize this issue is not going to go away, and it will take all of our voices, our actions, and our strength to level the playing field. It is only by working together that we can achieve full workplace and wage equality, at the White House, or at the corner store.