Last week the issue of wage equity was in the news. First, it was the Oscar speech by Patricia Arquette that seemed to come out of nowhere. She said that it’s “time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” This was followed by an investigative story that reminded future voters that the women in Senator Hillary Clinton’s office were paid less than the men working in her office.
As the presidential campaigns and congressional campaigns unfold this year, we are certain to hear more about pay equity. And politicians and commentators will no doubt point out some of the discrepancies and hypocrisy. Let’s look at President Obama’s White House staff and former Senator Hillary Clinton’s staff.
The American Enterprise Institute, for example, found a $10,000 gender pay gap in the White House. Median annual salaries for men working on the White House staff are $75,750 while the median annual salaries for women are $65,650.
Last week the Washington Free Beacon published an article with the provocative title: “Hillary Clinton’s War on Women.” It documented that women working in her office were paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men. The median salary for a woman was $15,708 less than the median salary for a man.
Does that mean that President Obama and Senator Clinton are discriminating against women? No, both of them have proclaimed and supported the Women’s Equal Pay Day. What it shows is that factors like academic background, professional expertise, and seniority actually matter and are the real reason for differences in pay.
Since 1963, it has been unlawful under the federal Equal Pay Act for an employer to pay female employees less than a male employee for the same work. The 1964 Civil Rights Act also prohibits sex discrimination in wages. And we could add dozens of other federal and states statutes that also protect women.
Over the next twenty months we are going to hear all sorts of claims and counter claims about wage equity and pay equity. Lots of it is merely campaign rhetoric with sound bites meant to confuse the voters. Don’t be confused.