At the same time the Obama administration once again renewed its Equal Pay push, the White House released salary figures for White House staff. Upon analysis, the Washington Post, among others, concluded that the gender pay gap (as defined by the White House) that has existed since President Obama was elected is as wide as it was in 2009, a thirteen percent difference:
The average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400, according to White House data released. That is a gap of 13 percent.
In 2009, male employees made an average of about $82,000, compared to an average of $72,700 earned by female employees — also a 13 percent wage gap.
One of the key reasons is that more men hold the higher-paying, senior jobs in the White House, and more women hold the lower-paying, junior jobs.
Although the sample size is significantly smaller, a similar analysis of the salaries of First Lady Michelle Obama's staff shows a substantially larger difference. The analysis considered a White House employee as working for the first lady if the "position title" provided by the White House included "first lady," but also "Let's Move" and "Joining Forces," the first lady's two signature initiatives.
As it turns out, there are only two men on the first lady's staff. They are the directors of Let's Move and Joining Forces. Their salaries average $123,307. The other fourteen staffers are women (the salary for the deputy director of Let's Move was listed as $0 and was therefore not included in the analysis). The average pay for the remaining thirteen women is $84,133, a 46 percent difference from the men's average.
There are three women whose pay is higher than the men's average, including one making $172,200. The position title for each of these women also includes "assistant to the president" in addition to responsibilities for the first lady. A fourth woman, whose salary of $103,000 is well above the women's average, is also listed as assistant to the president.
Mrs. Obama's staff has consisted primarily of women since her tenure as first lady began, though there has been a significant amount of turnover. Although it is unclear the role Mrs. Obama plays in hiring her staff for the White House, Mrs. Obama delivered a commencement address at Eastern Kentucky University in May 2013 where she drew on personal experience to give the graduates an idea of what a potential employer might be looking for. She said that for her, grades, test scores, and scholastic pedigree were insignificant factors during job interviews. Character trumps academics, and gender is not mentioned:
Whether it was during my time as a lawyer, as an administrator at a university, a nonprofit manager, even now as First Lady, I’ve never once asked someone I was interviewing to explain a test score or a grade in a class -- never. (Applause.) I’ve never once made a hire just because someone went to an Ivy League school instead of a state school -- never. What I have looked for is what kind of person you are. Are you a hard worker? Are you reliable? Are you open to other viewpoints? Have you stepped outside of your own self-interest to serve others? Have you found a way to serve our country, whether in uniform or in your community?
President Obama was the subject of criticism even from allies at the start of his second term for a shortage of women selected for replacement cabinet positions. Mrs. Obama herself has largely escaped such criticism for her own staffing choices despite the fact that her husband's staff is far more diverse than her own.