Obama pays a few women big bucks

Record vs. Bush is mixed

President Obama’s top female White House aides earn more on average than their male counterparts, a reversal from the pattern in the George W. Bush administration, The Washington Times found in an analysis of 2011 pay records.

Top female employees on average earned nearly 4 percent more than top male employees under Mr. Obama, compared with a deficit of 12 percent under Mr. Bush.

Despite Mr. Obama’s claims of championing the plight of women in the workplace, his record at the White House on closing the gender pay gap is mixed: In a broader survey of the 121 White House employees who were paid at least $100,000, 47 are women and 74 are men. That is only slightly better than in 2003, the third year of the Bush administration, when 39 of the top 121 employees were women.

When all White House employees are considered, the Obama administration’s record dims a bit further. Female employees earn a median salary of $60,000, roughly 18 percent less than men, whose median salary is $71,000.

Mr. Obama’s record on pay equity in the White House is drawing additional scrutiny as he and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney engage in a pitched battle for female voters heading to the November election.

The president and his Democratic allies accused the GOP of launching a “war on women” this year after Republicans objected to mandated contraception coverage in the president’s national health care law. Mr. Obama’s campaign challenged Mr. Romney over his stance on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first legislation Mr. Obama signed into law in 2009 — which extends the window for women to sue over pay discrimination.

Mr. Obama has highlighted the gender pay gap in the workforce as evidence of discrimination that harms families and the economy. Even though women in the U.S. are increasingly becoming family breadwinners, they earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, the president said.

“So closing this pay gap, ending pay discrimination, is about far more than simple fairness,” he said during a White House women’s economic forum last month. “When more women are bringing home the bacon but bringing home less of it than men who are doing the same work, that weakens families, it weakens communities, it’s tough on our kids, it weakens our entire economy.”

Leveling the playing field

When asked about the president’s record on equal treatment for women in the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama remains committed to “a level playing field.”

“Ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal works remains a top policy priority for President Obama — and has been since the Lily Ledbetter Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama,” he said. “As he said at a conference he recently hosted at the White House to examine how women in America are impacted by the economy, the president believes that a level playing field isn’t just good for women; it’s important for all middle-class families that rely on a woman’s salary to pay the bills.”

While Mr. Obama has taken steps to ensure that senior women in the White House on average make as much or more than men, he has not dramatically increased the number of women at the highest levels compared with those serving under Mr. Bush.

In the highest-paid positions when Mr. Bush was in office — aides making $151,000 — four of 14 were women: Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; Harriet Miers, a deputy chief of staff; Dina Powell, an assistant to the president for personnel; and Mary Spellings, an assistant for domestic policy.

In 2011, Mr. Obama had seven women compared with 14 men making the top White House salary — $172,000 — an increase of three women in the top ranks from the Bush administration’s third year. Those women are: Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser; Melody Barnes, director of domestic policy; Stephanie Cutter, who served as deputy senior adviser before moving to the campaign; Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco, deputy chiefs of staff; Kathryn Ruemmler, White House counsel; and Christina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

In analyzing income data from the Obama and Bush administrations, The Times evaluated staffers with the highest White House incomes in 2011, the most recent staff salary index available, and 2003, the third year of Mr. Bush’s presidency. In the Obama administration last year, 121 staffers earned $100,000, compared with the Bush White House in 2003, when 75 people earned more than $100,000 and 46 made between $70,000 and $100,000.

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