weather icon Clear

Gender pay gap at Trump White House tops national wage gap

WASHINGTON — The gender pay gap at President Donald Trump’s White House is larger than the national pay gap. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

As a businessman running for the White House, Trump frequently boasted that he was a pioneer in hiring women for top slots in his organization.

“I have been very, very good for women,” Trump told The Washington Post in 2015. “I was way ahead of the curve.”

Yet an annual report of White House salaries through June 28 shows that the median salary of male White House staffers is $106,000, but $80,000 for female staffers, according to Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, and number crunching by the Review-Journal.

That disparity indicates male White House staffers are paid close to 25 percent more than female staffers — a pay gap larger than the 19 percent national gender gap in median weekly earnings in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“People have an image of themselves that sometimes are not borne out by the numbers. That’s why the numbers are so important,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow who focuses on women’s issues for the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “I know very few employers who say ‘we stink.’ ”

The White House declined several requests to comment on the discrepancy.

Gap down from 2017

Perry found that the gender pay gap in the Trump White House in 2017 was larger — 37 percent — with men earning a median salary of $115,000 and women earning $72,650. Perry did not compute 2018’s gap.

Even former President Barack Obama, who railed against the gender pay gap in America, “had a pretty significant gender earnings gap,” Perry said.

In 2016, Perry found the Obama White House paid men a median annual salary of $76,928, but women were paid $68,658 — a 10.75 percent differential. That gap was down from 16 percent in 2015, 18 percent in 2014 and 12 percent in 2013.

The wage gap appears to exist largely because there are more men than women in high-paying jobs and more women than men in low-paying jobs, including clerical positions — hardly a phenomenon limited to the Trump White House.

For the reporting period that ended in June 28, there were 418 employees working at the White House — 220 men and 198 women.

“Is it surprising that they have more women in the lower-wage jobs? No, that’s not surprising,” Frye said. “But you don’t want that.”

If employers are not “intentional” about pay equity, then a gender pay gap will persist. “If you don’t pay attention to it, you will not do well,” she said.

Sally Pipes of the conservative Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco argued, “You can’t just generally add up all the women and all the men. What are the titles and what does each job pay? Is there a difference?”

Among the 22 staffers who are paid $183,000 or more, 15 are men and seven are women.

By comparison, Perry found that Obama’s highest-paid workers in 2015 consisted of 13 men and 12 women.

“The way the continuum is going in the United States, you’d expect Trump to pick more than Obama and Obama more than (former President George W.) Bush,” Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, who has been tracking turnover in the Trump White House for the left-leaning Brookings Institution, told the Review-Journal. But that is not happening.

Commenting on the low number of women at the top in the Trump White House, Frye said she was sure there are more Republican women who could serve in the president’s top tier.

Frye is not surprised that Trump has hired women to fill only a third of the top slots.

His “attacks on professional women of color because they happen to disagree with you in Congress,” she said, send “a terrible message about what it means to treat women as equals in the workplace.”

Within job designations, the annual salary report shows women and men earn about the same salary. That’s because federal pay scales require that men and women working the same job get paid the same salary.

Lowest-paid staffers

But while men and women earn the same salaries for the same jobs, there are 126 women who hold positions in the lowest pay category at the White House, as opposed to 106 men.

The two lowest-paid staffers in the White House are adviser Ivanka Trump and assistant to the president Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law. Both work without pay — like the the president himself, who donates his $400,000 annual salary to federal agencies.

The third lowest-paid staffer is Christopher P. Liddell, a special assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy development. A former chief financial officer for General Motors and Microsoft, Liddell’s $30,000 salary is lower than the minimum White House salary of $43,600, but it allows him to qualify for health benefits.

The highest-paid person in the White House is a man largely unknown to American voters, John Czwartacki, senior adviser to temporary chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Czwartacki earns $239,595, more than his boss, Mulvaney, who takes home $203,000.

As individuals assigned to the White House from other agencies, both Czwartacki and Mulvaney are not bound by the White House pay schedule, which tops out at $183,000.

If Mulvaney, who was Office of Management and Budget director when drafted to take the helm at the West Wing, became permanent chief of staff, his pay would be cut by $20,000.

Among the 20 assistants to the president who earn $183,000 annually are some of the most visible members of the administration — economic policy adviser Larry Kudlow, national security adviser John Bolton and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway.

The annual report covers salaries up to June 28, so the list of top-tier employees earning $183,000 included former Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and former senior adviser for strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, both of whom have left the White House.

Current Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham earned $183,00 in her double role as first lady Melania Trump’s press secretary and communications director. While assuming the posts of press secretary and White House director of communications on July 1, Grisham chose to retain her two positions in the first lady’s office. Grisham is the Trump White House’s fifth communications director and the only staffer with four portfolios.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Michael Scott Davidson contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.