President Obama is asking employers this week to pay men and women equally, while the White House Monday tried to defend Mr. Obama’s record of paying female staffers only 88 percent of what men earn.
The president will sign two executive orders Tuesday at the White House promoting gender pay equity among federal contractors. The first order will prohibit contractors from punishing employees who discuss their wages; the second will require contractors to release compensation data along racial and gender lines.
Senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said Mr. Obama on Tuesday also will urge the Senate to pass the Equal Pay Act, which would require all employers to provide data on their pay breakdowns along gender lines.
“These protections shouldn’t just apply to federal contractors, they should apply to all Americans,” Ms. Jarrett said.
While the president is encouraging employers to pay men and women the same, several recent studies have shown that women in the Obama White House earn just 88 cents on average for every dollar earned by a male staffer. White House press secretary Jay Carney, who earns the maximum salary of $172,200, said the president’s record on pay equity “is better than the national average.”
Nationally, women earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
Mr. Carney said women at the White House are paid less overall than men because lower-paid positions might be “filled by more women than men.” But he said people who hold the same level of jobs are paid the same regardless of gender.
For example, he said, White House Deputy Chiefs of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco and Rob Nabors each are paid $172,200.
Mr. Carney also took the unusual step of reciting the names of 10 top female staffers at the White House and their positions, including Ms. Jarrett and White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler.
“We have 16 department heads,” Mr. Carney said. “Over half of them are women, all of whom make the same salary as their male counterparts.”
In a study last fall, Mark Perry, of the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, found that 231 male White House staffers earned a median salary of $73,729 in 2013, while 228 female employees earned a median annual salary of $65,000.
“In other words, female staffers at the Obama White House are paid less than 88 cents for every dollar paid to male staffers, and there is therefore a significant White House ‘gender pay gap’ of more than 12 percent,” said Mr. Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan.
The president’s push comes as Democrats are anxious to spur voter turnout in this year’s mid-term elections among their base, including women and minorities. Mr. Obama also is calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which affects mostly women workers.