The Government's Gender Hiring Gap

Politicians who hypocritically criticize the private sector for gender gaps should first examine their own staffs.

Caroline C. Lewis · Dec. 14, 2017

Politicians routinely criticize the private sector for not hiring enough women in key positions. For example, in 2017, only 32 Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. Yet, a closer examination of public sector (i.e. government) jobs also reveals a disparity. According to a recent report by Open the Books, one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world, men outnumber women as the top-paid employees on both the state and federal level.

On the federal level, females account for only one in three of the top earning positions.

Of the top-paid congressional staffers (earning up to $172,500), men outnumber women two to one.

On the state level (data from the five most populous states: Florida, Texas, Illinois, California and New York), only 20% of the 1,000 most highly compensated employees were women. Male employees collectively earned $1.6 billion while women collectively earned $386 million. Only seven women represented the top 100 highest earning employees across the five states.

The hiring gap and compensation differences of congressional staff also reveal gender hiring gaps as an issue for both parties. As Open the Books CEO and Founder Adam Andrzejewski states, “[The] taxpayer-funded gender gap crosses both sides of the aisle.”

The case study of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office states that in terms of yearly salaries, “on average, male employees made $124,404 while female employees made $94,389,” despite the fact that fewer men (25 men and 30 women) composed her staff. How? The men on her staff rank in higher positions than the women, and that’s why they earn more. It’s not that she’s paying women less for the same job (that’s illegal), it’s just that she’s either not hiring women to higher-paying positions or not promoting existing female staff to higher-paying positions.

On her website, Pelosi champions the cause of opportunity and pay for women, stating, “Too many women are asked to bear the burden of outdated policies that diminish opportunities for women’s full participation in our workforce. Too many women are faced with the lack of good-paying jobs, and the daily challenge of providing for their families.” Yet her own office lacks action on the ideals she espouses.

The office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also revealed a gender compensation difference. Schumer employed 32 men and 41 women. The male employees averaged $76,711 per year while the females averaged $69,263. Again, this seems due to the fact that men occupied more highly compensated positions than women.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) employed 21 males and 23 females, the male employees made $107,813 per year while the female employees made a drastically lower $66,726. Like Pelosi and Schumer’s offices, this reveals that the males in McConnell’s office fill higher positions than the women.

This data sparks key questions about women, careers and government leadership. Is the hiring disparity the fault of government employers who prefer hiring men to women, or are fewer women interested in government jobs in general? Are women not receiving promotions or do women prefer a lower paying position with greater flexibility?

Government leaders who hypocritically criticize the private sector for gender hiring gaps should first examine their own staffs. If the hiring and promotion gap exists due to a lack of female applicants, give these women the freedom to apply for a career they enjoy. However, if the hiring gap proves to be based on discrimination, politicians should assess their own hiring practices before they criticize private companies.

Note: The Open the Books oversight report states, “Our analysis didn’t find a gender wage gap, but a gender hiring gap in the highly compensated employees. … Employees in the same position — regardless of gender — are paid the same wages. Doing otherwise is illegal.”

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