White House Women paid less than White House Men: “But can they type?”

It had to be done—I broke down the White House’s July 1 report on staff salaries and compiled a data table to look at the status of women in the administration we voted for. Go math go!

Key Findings

  • NUMBERS OF FEMALE AND MALE STAFF ARE EQUAL: Out of a total of 487 employees, women comprise 49.9% of the White House staff!

That is very close to the nationwide population average; 50.9% of Americans are women, according to US Census numbers from 2000. But should we be judging by a population benchmark? Of the Class of 2009, women were awarded close to 60% of all degrees, including Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Professional, and Doctoral. The perceived gap between female WH employees and female graduates entering the workforce is larger: 49.9% vs 60%.

  • WOMEN EARN LESS: On average, a White House woman earns $9,390 less than a White House man.

The average salary for a male employee is $82,346, while the average for a female employee is $72,956. Women are earning $0.89 for every $1.00 men make. Heck, that’s better than the national average of $0.77. But alone, these averages DO NOT confirm that White House women are paid less than men in comparable positions. Here, averages only imply differences in seniority and pay level. A woman’s median WH salary is $57,314, while a man’s median WH salary is $65,000.

Where is this disparity occurring?


  • WOMEN ARE IN LOWER PAID POSITIONS: in the lowest earning brackets, $30,000-$59,999, the number of female employees outstrips the number of men.

From the data table, the position titles for these lower-paying jobs stand out as traditional women’s (lower-level) positions: Staff Assistant, Correspondence Analyst, Executive Assistant, Greetings Coordinator, Scheduler, and Receptionist. A trend emerges, especially from the $90,000-129,999 and $140,000-179,999 brackets: women are employed in the White House for traditionally lower level positions, but are outnumbered at the levels of senior staff.

Rudimentary statistics tells us correlation does not imply causation. Because it is impossible to compare the seniority of every employee granted the title “Staff Assistant,” these figures say nothing of hiring practices or of attitudes toward women in the administration. But it is disappointing to see just as government functions as a large corporation, people at the highest levels are increasingly male. Is this like the Women’s Campaign Forum’s findings that women must be encouraged to run for office? Are women reluctant to step up to positions of higher seniority? Do women receive preference in traditionally lower-ranking administrative jobs? Or, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar commented today during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing…

So, I think it’s worth remembering that when Justice O’Connor graduated from law school, the only offers she got from law firms were for legal secretary positions. Justice O’Connor – who graduated third in her class at Stanford Law School – saw her accomplishments reduced to one question: “Can she type?”

In this White House, we can’t know for sure.

Notes about my process:

  • Besides making “assumptions” about the 487 names, there were about 50 gender-ambiguous names (Ashley, Jamia, Tracy, etc) that I researched to confirm the person’s pronouns. I do realize this process is not trans-inclusive. Numbers and the data table have been edited since the original posting to reflect 3 miscategorized employees.
  • Patricia McGinnis and Michael Warren were counted into the total number of employees, but not into the salary averages and medians, as both earned $0.00
  • The total percentage of staff includes detailees, but the average salary does not. Detailees are essentially employees on loan from other federal agencies, whose salaries are determined and paid for by the other agencies.

26 responses to “White House Women paid less than White House Men: “But can they type?”

  1. Ariel, this is super impressive! I’m glad you did this; you’re right – someone needs to.

  2. Hey Ariel! Whatup? Couple of things that you might want to address when looking at this issue:
    1. The class of 2009 might have had more women, who thus graduated with more degrees, but that certainly wouldn’t have filtered to the people being hired for jobs in the Obama administration. The Obama administration would only have hired people who had years of experience (and so would have been educated years earlier when women did not make up such a large percentage of graduates). It will surely take a few years for all the young women recently educated to make their way up the pipeline to jobs in future administrations. I’m sure you already knew this, but I think it’s important that you mention it, just to establish yourself as a respectable statistician. That said, now we pose the question: qualified men are likely to have more experience than qualified women, because they have been historically favored in the job market; should the Obama administration hire women with less experience when they consider the obstacles that have kept women from getting experience? Or, hire younger women with equal academic qualification but less experience so that they can have more women in the white house? (I’m sure many would argue against hiring less experienced women simply because they are women)
    2. It might be interesting to compare the gender pay disparity between administrations; I would bet that the Obama administration would be a lot better than the Bush administration, although you never know.
    3. Is there any statistical test you could run to make sure that the disparity is statistically significant? (From the graph it looks like it is, but it would be nice for you to confirm)
    Either way, I think it’s important that no one comes to a hasty conclusion looking at these numbers, because, as you aptly say at the end of your post, we don’t actually know what the hiring policy is, or what the gender dynamic is like in the white house. Moreover, we just can’t be sure what these numbers really mean, because we don’t really know if the disparity is due to current bias, or a lack of equally qualified women due to historical inequalities imposed on them. Nice post though! It’s great that you’ve taken the initiative to analyze these numbers. Sounds like you’re having fun in DC!

    • Rebeccca, you’re not still using that trite old excuse for pay disparity that somehow in 2009 there were less qualified women to choose from? I don’t buy it! The women’s movement was 30 years ago!

  3. Also, I would bet if you did a racial breakdown of the White House, even though Obama is black, I’m sure white people get paid a lot more than the black people. Especially in a place like Washington DC, that is so racially unequal, I’ll bet that the janitors are disproportionally black, and that the well-paid advisors are much more likely to be disproportionally white or Asian.

  4. This is fantastic! Thanks!

  5. You have Samir S Mayekar designated as female. Samir Mayekar is male.

  6. Also, you have Jamia S. Jowers designated as male, and she is female.

  7. Pingback: Matthew Yglesias » White House Pay Gap

  8. Good stuff! I was wondering this myself as I read through the list. About the total employees number – does white house employment actually require a college degree?

    Also, I assumed that men would actually outnumber women for working age since more men are born than women, but in fact the 21-44 group is almost equal and the 45-64 has significantly more women. It’s 20 and under where men dominate. Weird.

    (From http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/age/age_sex_2008.html)

  9. Ed Chmielowski

    Drew, the disparity in numbers as men and women age isn’t so weird when you consider that men have higher mortality rates at all age levels.

  10. Um, isn’t there some one missing? POTUS gets paid upwards of 200K, which would skew these numbers some more, would they not?
    Not sure about VPOTUS, but if the election had turned out differently, there’d be one more high-paid women on the WH books…

    • tolovemycountry

      “As president, Mr. Obama earns $400,000 a year. He has a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and a $19,000 entertainment budget.

      Mr. Obama’s total compensation package: $569,000 a year. ”

      Even if I included POTUS and VPOTUS, the medians wouldn’t change. And they weren’t on the list.

  11. Ed,

    Yeah, I just thought it wouldn’t manifest itself so clearly at such a young age. I expected the 21-44 group to be significantly more male.

  12. Somewhere along the line, these sort of comparisons got passed off as sound statistics and constructive commentary. The classic gender-pay analysis compared male and female pay FOR THE SAME JOBS, which is not at all what you’ve done here. I’d like to see if male and female secretaries make the same amount, and if male and female project directors make the same amount. I don’t care that male project directors make more than female secretaries.

    • tolovemycountry

      You’re right, my post does not make any assumptions about comparisons between salaries of employees in comparable positions– this is impossible without an inside knowledge of the White House and the everyday delegation of responsibility and authority. You may not care that project directors make more than secretaries, but you might care that secretaries statistically tend to be female and directors statistically tend to be male. The commentary here is intended to provoke thought about why men dominate the higher positions– where’s the disconnect? Is it women not majoring in Poli Sci at the same rates? Is it post-graduation job choices? Is it because the last administration to serve in was the predom. male Clinton administration? This post is a question, not an answer.

  13. Not a huge surprise, though it is depressing since I voted for him. Obama’s Senate staff had a gender gap in pay, where men were paid more than women. A few media outlets picked this up (Hillary Clinton and John McCain (!) both paid women and men equitably though).

    I feel that Obama’s heart is in the right place on issues that matter to me, but I hope this pay gap disappears. He does seem to be a man’s man though.

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  16. it is all GW Bush’s fault. Didn’t you get the memo?

  17. I wrote about this a few weeks about for the AAUW blog http://blog-aauw.org/2009/07/08/pay-equity-in-the-obama-white-house/#comment-3717

    I was unable to identify 34 employee’s gender and omitted them from my analysis. I was constrained to 600 words in my blog post (editorial guidelines) it was hard to decide what to highlight from the data. I appreciate your analysis.

    Thanks for posting.
    Danine Spencer

  18. This is fantastic work, well done! I always think back to Babcock’s “Women Don’t Ask” – showing women undervalue their own work, fail to ask for competitive wages, and negotiate less often and for lesser amounts. Empowering women to recognize their own worth and ask for it is a simple, achievable method for combating wage disparities.

    I am, nonetheless, heartened to see the wage gap in the White House is far smaller than the national average. I consider it progress, but maybe I’m an optimist.

  19. Pingback: Longer view: The pay gap in the Bush and Clinton administrations «

  20. Pingback: Queercents » Blog Archive » Women Still Face a Wage Gap

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  22. Pingback: White House Women paid less than White House Men:But can they type? : The New Agenda

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