The Gender Pay Gap in the White House

It is always important to verify the truth of claims that our leaders make in order to be informed citizens. The purpose of my posts is to report information from current research to keep readers informed of new knowledge about gender issues in the workplace. While the Trump administration has consistently made claims about their commitment to gender equality, new information reveals a mixed record in that regard. Here are some of the claims from the Trump administration about their accomplishments, reported by Chabeli Carrazana of The 19th:

  • Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump administration press secretary, said that the president has taken “unprecedented action to support women and girls.” The Trump administration has implemented some helpful policies, but the rhetoric does not match reality in many ways.
  • The Trump administration says that it has more women in senior positions than any president in history. We will examine data that disproves this claim.
  • McEnany also touts the historic low unemployment rate for women in 2019 as proof of the administration’s commitment to gender equality (and unemployment rates are now at historic highs due to the pandemic).
  • In terms of the gender pay gap in the White House, the Trump administration never mentions it. Mark Perry, an economist and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who tracks the pay gap, offers the standard justification that “there are more men than women who have advanced degrees and decades of experience,” so of course men are paid more in the Trump White House. To this tired “pipeline” argument, C. Nicole Mason of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research notes that “there is no absence of qualified women.”

Let’s take a look at some of the recently available data.

The Gender Pay Gap in the White House

Carrazana of The 19th writes President Trump did not make closing the gender pay gap a priority. An analysis by the staff of The 19th found that a significant gender pay gap exists in the Trump White House with a $33,300 pay gap in median salaries in 2020. Male staffers had a median income of $106,000 while the median of female staffers is $72,700. This means that in the Trump White House women make 69 cents on the male dollar, which is worse than the national pay gap of 82 cents on the dollar.

Carrazan notes that there do not appear to be any staffers who identify as nonbinary, so all available data is binary. These numbers for the White House are calculated as “raw” gender pay gap data, not adjusted for experience, education, title, or other factors, which is the same way that the national figure is calculated.

In comparison to past administrations, Carrazan reports that in the Barack Obama White House, in 2016, women were paid 89 cents on the dollar, which plummeted to 63 cents the first year that Trump took office, according to an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Women in Senior Positions

As for the claim that the Trump administration has more women in senior positions than any president in history, this claim does not hold up. Carrazan reports that

  • An analysis by the Brookings Institution of top advisors across administrations found that the 2017 Trump administration had women in 23 percent of its A-team positions, which is less than the 2009 Obama administration, the 2001 George W. Bush administration, and the 1993 Bill Clinton administration.
  • An analysis by The 19th staff of 2020 data on Trump White House commissioned officers—assistants, deputy assistants, and special assistants to the president—found that 40 percent of staffers who had that ranking in the Trump White House were women.
  • In the Obama White House in 2016, the gender split in the commissioned officers, or top positions, was 50-50.
  • In terms of top earners, in 2016, 53 percent of those who earned $100,000 or more in the Obama White House were women compared to 47 percent who were men. In 2020, the gender split for highest earners in the Trump administration was 37 percent female, 63 percent male.

Actions to Support Women and Girls

In terms of this claim that President Trump took unprecedented actions to support women and girls, Carrazan reports that

  • The Trump administration tried to roll back measures designed to increase transparency on pay data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but was blocked from doing so by the ruling of a federal judge.
  • Trump signed an executive order in 2017 that rolled back the Obama administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. The Obama order required companies with federal contracts to comply with a number of civil rights and labor rights laws, including paycheck transparency.

We must stay vigilant and ensure that the voices of white women and women and men of color are represented at the table where decisions are made and that we are paid equitably for our work. We bring valuable perspectives and life experience that will make our government and our country stronger.


Photo courtesy of The White House (public domain)

Leave a Comment