Did Obama Learn A Lesson on Pay Inequity from 2008?

Mar 2, 2011 11:04am

The White House yesterday issued what it billed as the most comprehensive study of women in the U.S. since 1963

One of the report’s main focuses, as we covered on World News last night, was pay inequity. Women still make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equivalent position.

The issue was all the more interesting because, as you may recall, in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, faced some tough statistics when a conservative columnist crunched numbers and found out that women in Obama’s Senate office were paid 83 cents for every dollar men were paid.  Women in the office of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., were paid more than the men in McCain's office — $1.04 for every dollar a man made.

Conservative columnist Deroy Murdock framed it as an issue of pay equity, but if anything it was more a matter of a "glass ceiling." Only one of Obama's five best-paid Senate staffers was a woman. Of McCain's five best-paid Senate staffers, three were women. Of Obama's top 20 salaried Senate staffers, seven were women. Of McCain's top 20 salaried Senate staffers, 13 were women.

Yesterday, I asked White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett about those numbers from 2008, and she seemed to suggest they were statistics the president took to heart.

“The fact of the matter is that the president has always appreciated talent and he has paid people fairly and accordingly,” Jarrett said. “I think whenever you see what the data is, it helps inform you and helps you say, ‘Should we should do things differently?’

Jarrett said the women in his administration “surround him well — not just in terms of agency heads but also in the White House. Two of his deputy chiefs of staff are now women, senior people in every single agency are women, and he is married to a strong woman as well.  I think the president comes to this job with a full appreciation of women and what they have to offer in the workforce.”

-Jake Tapper

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