The White House Is Bridging The Gender Pay Gap. Can The Rest Of The US Follow Suit?

The gender wage gap at the White House narrowed to 1%. That’s huge news, even though it would be better if it WAS equal (not almost equal). By now, it’s common knowledge that women currently earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. So, how has the White House suddenly been able to be so successful in a few short months? 

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The White House Pay Gap

The White House points to a pay band salary structure as the “best practice for helping to achieve pay equity” regardless of gender or race. With 60% of the White House workers being female, that works out to the average female worker making $93,752 compared with a male worker’s $94,639. Although it sounds a bit convoluted, the pay band salary idea is pretty simple. Individuals who have the same or similar jobs are paid the same regardless of gender

Congress requires the White House to report on the title and salary of every White House staffer. Details about staff salaries have been reported since 1995, but the data has never been such a hot topic for discussion before. We are at a crossroads in what is a defining moment in history. We’ve already seen the World Economic Forum take up the issue, with their estimates of how many years it could really take to close the gap.  

What’s shocking here is not only that they’ve been able to accomplish what so many politicians have been promising for years, but how they’ve been able to put this in place virtually overnight. As a quick White House comparison, the last administration had a 37% gender pay gap (women earned 69 cents for every dollar a man earned) for the first year in office. 

 

So, what does this mean, and why do I care? I love it because it’s a proof of concept. No longer can we throw up our hands in dismay and horror when faced with the realities of pay and fairness. We really can bridge the wage gap, even as the US Department of Labor offers cringe-worthy details on the effects of the pandemic on the wage gap.  

What’s so cringe-worthy? It’s the fact that a female worker makes just 82% of a male employee’s annual salary. Under other circumstances, we could have expected women to earn more in a recession, while gaining experience and skills. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, the pandemic has shown us time and again that it’s a monstrosity of a very different kind.


The Pandemic and the Gender Pay Gap

Instead of shrinking the gender wage gap, the pandemic dramatically increased it. As women have dropped out of the workforce or cut their hours to accommodate the absence of childcare options, the average woman now earns 76 cents for every dollar a man makes. Instead of shrinking the gender wage gap, the Global Gender Gap Report indicates that it grew by 36 years

But, what about the immediate effects of the pandemic? Well, there’s the obvious: higher unemployment, with the largest increase experienced by women (12.8% compared to 9.9% by men). While this may be a combination of traditional female roles and the reality of lower wages and familial responsibility, it may lead to more far-reaching ramifications for women. 

As women have dropped out of the work market, more jobs are opening up that allow for remote work to accommodate the changing needs of an in-demand workforce. We’ve yet to see how the evolution in remote work will shake out, but for now, the trend may slowly etch away at the unemployment rate, while laying the foundation for what could become the perfect testing ground for gender wage equity.


What Can We Do?

I know the last year has been hell for lots of women, myself included. It has felt very much like many of the gains that we’d made in the workforce over the years were slipping away. But here’s what I know.  

Knowledge is power, which means we should be participating in the discussion, both by listening and speaking about what’s going on, but also by writing and reading. We all need to know (and negotiate) our worth better, but we also need to talk about salary more with coworkers. I’m not talking negativity or sour grapes here. It should be about pushing for solutions and believing that change really is possible AND inevitable if we demand it.  

Here are some organizations that offer resources and support for the fight against wage inequality and inequalities in general.

Equal Pay Today
This organization uses policy, litigation, and outreach strategies to close the gender and racial wage gap. 

National Women’s Law Center
Find a fact sheet and a map, which highlights the gender gap by state. 

NOW – National Organization for Women
This page offers a fact vs reality analysis of where we are in the fight for equitable wages. 

American Association of University Women (AAUW)
This site offers projections, information, and resources about the gender wage gap in America and how it really is affecting women.

We should make the wage gap issue viral. We’ve seen so many other important issues gain new life with the power and push of social media. I’ve seen a few voices speak about the wage gap, but what would happen if we all took to the social platforms and demanded change for ALL of us?

We must also find a way to achieve affordable childcare. I know it has been hotly discussed and debated, particularly over the last year. But we haven’t come up with any solutions yet. So, that just means that we need to put our heads together and figure it out. This is the issue that has affected women more than any other in the last year. It’s also the brutal reality that limits job choices and mobility, which could lead to more equitable wages for all.  

So, what’s the next step? I always find that it’s best to start where I am and move forward. It often feels like I’m starting at the bottom of a long and steep hill with so far to climb. But, then I remember that until just a little bit ago, I never thought we’d ever have a female Vice President. I’m sure once upon a time, women never thought they’d ever earn the right to vote. 

And, there are SO many milestones that I can name just in my lifetime. I know it never happens overnight, and there are inevitable hiccups and bumps along the way. But, I have to hope that we’ll nudge the discussion forward and build a more equitable future for our kids.

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What are your thoughts about the White House’s narrowing of the wage gap? Please share in the comments below!


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