USA TODAY US Edition
White House staffers see gender pay gap
Analysis shows $33,300 difference between men’s and women’s salaries
During the Republican National Convention last month, the high-ranking women in President Donald Trump’s White House tried to make the case for his commitment to gender equality.
Outgoing adviser Kellyanne Conway called him “a champion for women.” Brooke Rollins, acting director of the Domestic Policy Council, said Trump has more women on his top team “than any president before.”
A video flashed through images of women who advise the president, including his daughter Ivanka and his daughter-in-law, Lara. A voiceover intoned, “President Trump has proven that when the stakes are highest, he is proud to entrust many of our nation’s most crucial jobs to women.”
An analysis by The 19th of the 2020 median salaries in the Trump White House found a $33,300 chasm between the salary for male staffers ($106,000) and the salary for female staffers ($72,700).
Women make nearly 69 cents on the male $1 – worse than the national gender pay gap of 82 cents on the dollar.
The numbers reflect what economists call the “raw” gender pay gap, meaning they don’t adjust for experience, education, title or other factors.
“To avoid addressing structural and institutional gender discrimination in terms of pay equity, the go-to is to talk about position and title when, in fact, that’s not what’s driving pay inequity,” said C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “It’s decisions that are being made from the top down about the valuing of women’s work and how much they should be paid.”
Women in President Barack Obama’s White House were paid 84 to 89 cents for every $1 paid to male staffers, though that gap was narrower than the national gender pay gap in those years.
The gender pay gap widened from 89 cents on the dollar in 2016, the final year Obama was in office, to 63 cents the first year Trump was in office, according to an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
The Trump White House salaries are current as of June 26. The numbers have been reported annually to Congress on July 1 since 1995. The White House did not comment on the gender pay gap but provided data on average salaries, which have increased by 7.1% for female staffers from 2017 to 2020, while decreasing for male staffers by 0.6%.
In a statement, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president “implements policies that empower women across the country.” She highlighted some of the milestones during the Trump administration, including a historic low unemployment rate for women in 2019 (though female unemployment has hit a historic high during the coronavirus pandemic); the passage of paid family leave for federal employees; and the establishment of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, led by Ivanka Trump.
The White House noted that half of the senior leaders in the National Security Council are women.
“President Trump has taken unprecedented action to support women and girls,” McEnany said.
The Trump administration said it has more women in senior positions than any other president. An analysis by The 19th of its commissioned officers – assistants, deputy assistants and special assistants to the president – found that about 40% of staffers with that ranking in the Trump White House are women.
In the 2016 Obama White House, which had a larger overall staff, the gender split in top positions was 50–50.
A Brookings Institution analysis of top advisers across administrations found that the 2017 Trump administration had women in 23% of its “A” team positions, what Brookings defines as the most influential staff members.
That’s less than the 2009 Obama administration, the 2001 George W. Bush administration and the 1993 Bill Clinton administration.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign did not provide its salary breakdown by gender but said 59% of its full-time staffers are female and 56% of senior staffers are women.
Mark Perry, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, said some of the disparity in pay in various administrations can be explained by looking at the spread of male and female staffers by seniority.
Federal guidelines dictate the salary brackets by type of position, so men and women performing similar jobs can expect to be paid about the same.
More women are hired into entry-level positions, Perry said. “More women than men have the college degrees that would get them the credentials to get a job at the White House as a low-paid staff person,” he said.
At the higher end, there are more men than women who have advanced degrees and experience in politics, he said.
“That labor market for people with 30 years continuous experience in Washington … there were just naturally more men than women in that labor market,” Perry said.
That paints an incomplete picture, Mason said. “There is no absence of qualified women,” she said, adding that the Obama administration made a stronger commitment to hiring women in senior leadership positions.
In 2016, more women than men earned $100,000 or more in the Obama White House – about 53% of six-figure earners compared with nearly 47% who were men. In 2020, the split among the highest earners in the Trump White House is 37% female and 63% male.
Among the top female earners in the White House are Conway, Rollins, McEnany, aide Hope Hicks and the first lady’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, who all made $183,000. Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, do not take a salary in their White House roles.
“The go-to is to talk about position and title when that’s not what’s driving pay inequity. It’s decisions that are being made from the top down about the valuing of women’s work and how much they should be paid.” C. Nicole Mason, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research