Growing up, kids are often taught the importance of leading by example. How can anyone respect your advice and counsel if you clearly don’t follow it yourself?
That’s the question some are asking this morning after President Obama’s State of the Union address where he spent considerable time lamenting the fact that women are not paid equally to men. Specifically, he said, “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.”
Most Americans wholeheartedly agree with this observation. In 2014, with more women in the workforce and a greater percentage graduating from college than their male counterparts, it only seems fair that, all things being equal, they receive equal pay for equal work.
Unfortunately for President Obama, his message was drown out a bit by a troublesome little fact.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, a woman working on Obama’s White House staff makes 87 cents for every dollar earned by her male counterpart. According to the report, there is a difference of $11,000 per year between the salaries of men and women working in the White House.
You’d think before standing up in front of the entire Congress and millions of people watching at home, President Obama would have made certain that his rhetoric matched the facts on the ground. If the one place where he presumably controls salaries between men and women is engaging in the same practice he’s complaining about, don’t you think he’d either strike it from the speech beforehand or hand out some quick raises?
In fact, he could have used that moment to make his point with the sort of theatrics presidents are known to employ in State of the Union addresses. For example, he could have had Jane Doe, a White House staffer, seated on one side of Mrs. Obama as he praised all her hard work and then announced that he was raising her salary then and there by $11,000 a year. Now that would be putting his money (or the American taxpayer’s money) where his mouth is!
Unfortunately, he didn’t do that. Instead, he went on to lament that too many workplace policies leading to this inequality are the result of attitudes more fitting for a Mad Men episode. That begs the question. Are these same attitudes the reason women in the White House are being paid significantly less?
Are working mothers in the White House being punished for taking time off to care for a sick child? Are pregnancies hampering their pay increases? Since the White House is clearly engaging in these practices, it seems like this is a good place to start in analyzing why these sorts of things happen, so they can be addressed. Perhaps the president can ask Vice President Joe Biden to head up a task force to look into this issue and report back.
In seeking an increase in the minimum wage last night, President Obama implored Congress to “give America a raise.” If we are to believe his sincerity in this request, let’s ask the president to give the hard working American women in the White House a raise as well.