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The White House has a gender gap problem

There's a gender gap problem in the White House's highest ranks


The White House has a gender gap problem

President Trump’s White House recently released its first annual report on its staff’s titles and salaries to Congress.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar Mark Perry reported that of Trump’s top 23 staffers making $179,900 to $187,100 annually, 17 of them are male and six are female.

Perry's analysis discovered that about 74 percent Trump’s highest level staffers are male since he became president last January.

And when Perry expanded his research to Trump’s top 48 staffers making $158,123 to $187,100 annually, the gap widened to 37 men and 11 women.

That marks an approximately 77.1% difference within that income bracket of the White House's staff.

Perry also found that when median salary in the White House is taken into account overall, men make about 37 percent more than women, with women’s median salaries being $72,648 and men’s being $115,000. Median salary doesn’t take into account experience, job title, or other duties besides salary.

In the lowest pay bracket examined by Perry, he takes into account the bottom 102 of Trump’s 374 staffers making between $30,000-$61,850, where 40 of those staffers are male, and 58 staffers are female.

In this instance, women held the majority of the lowest positions at about 60 percent. Women in the lower staff positions in the White House are important, experts say, but do not make up for the lack of women and the knowledge and experience that comes with being a top official.

There is an imbalance in the number of men versus women in the highest ranking positions in Trump’s White House, and it is evident throughout Perry's salary report.

Trump’s top female assistants include senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault, Deputy National Security Adviser KT McFarland, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, and Lindsay Reynolds, chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump.

Each of the aforementioned women in the upper echelons of Trump's White House make $179,700 annually.

Those six women are in some of the top spots at the Trump White House, and there are 14 men who are paid equally to them.

The total expands to 15 if one includes Mark House, Trump’s senior policy advisor, who is the highest paid staffer overall at $187,100 per year.

Perry's assessment does not include White House assistant Ivanka Trump, senior advisor Jared Kushner, and assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives Reed Cordish, none of whom take salaries despite being high level officials.

Trump appointed only two women to his Cabinet, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The president filled his other 14 Cabinet positions with men.

Trump appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon to Cabinet-level positions.

That is four women total out of twenty-three appointments betwene Trump's Cabinet and Cabinet-level roles.

Roughly 83 percent of his Cabinet, the most senior appointed executive branch officials in the U.S. government, are men.

At the beginning of each of their first terms both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had three women in their Cabinets.

Obama also filled four other Cabinet-level positions with women, while Bush slotted one woman into a similar role.

Bush would ultimately nominate 10 women to Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions, while Obama would nominate 15 women to similar functions.

Both Bush and Obama also oversaw a female Secretary of State, with Bush employing Condaleeza Rice and Obama having Hillary Clinton.

All these numbers suggest Trump could catch up to his predecessors in both the amount of and overall influence of female White House staffers.

Malliga Och, assistant professor at Idaho State University, points out that this is not strictly a numbers problem.

Och writes that research "consistently shows that women are relegated to lower-level or female-friendly Cabinet positions such as families, development or sports.”

Referenced in Och’s article is Sarah Childs and Mona Lena Krook's study called Analysing Women’s Substantive Representation: From Critical Mass to Critical Actors.

This paper said there is not a strictly linear relationship between the numbers of women in a general role and some specific feminized outcomes, but there is change when “specific actors” are women and there is substantive representation.

According to this research, it is not sheer numbers of women who will make a difference in government, but the roles that these women hold.

Specifically, Childs, Krook, and Och said women need to be in key decision making roles, like how Conway serves as senior counsel to the president - but in Trump’s White House there is only one Conway.

Many of the other women filling key roles in Trump's White House are leading his communications teams, which experts say are not necessarily key decision making functions.

Childs, Krook, and Och said it is imperative to not only increase representation and decision making for women, but to get and keep women involved in substantial issues at the highest levels.

There are still many positions in the executive branch and across the rest of the government's top levels that have not been filled by Trump.

Ochs said, “The idea behind ‘critical actors’ is that it is not so much about the number of women, but who, or which kind of women are being elected, and do these women then have a propensity to act for women and vote for women’s issues?"

A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education shows that women have been graduating from high school and college in higher rates than men since the 1950s.

The report said that “females born in 1975 were roughly 17% more likely than their male counterparts to attend college and nearly 23% more likely to complete a four-year degree.”

The Council of Graduate Schools report on “Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2005-2015” said that “in Fall 2015, the majority of first-time graduate students both at the master’s degree and certificate level (58.2%) and at the doctoral level (51.3%) were women. Women also earned the majority share of graduate certificates (66.4%), master’s degrees (58.4%), and doctoral degrees (51.8%) awarded by U.S. institutions in 2014-15.”

So, why do we not see women in the highest levels of our government? Women’s stalling and then lack of career growth has long been attributed to time taken off for childbearing and caregiving.

Kim Parker with Pew Research Center said that women have to adjust their careers for family life more than men do, but the Department of Labor reports that 70 percent of mothers with children under 18 work, with more than 75 percent of those women working full-time.

Rutgers Center for American Politics and Women reports that on the federal executive level women fill about 20 percent of 535 seats in the U.S. Congress and 24 percent of statewide executive officials.

The numbers show that today, women are just as, if not more, educated and qualified than men to hold high offices and executive level jobs, but they are still not equal in the roles in which they are elected and selected. During the 2016 election cycle, 234 women ran for statewide office and Congress, and roughly 51 percent of them lost their general elections.

"For the average woman to be more interested in politics, participating more in politics, more informed on politics, Cabinet positions are actually very important because they have a higher profile,” said Ochs, referencing an LSE blog by Karen Beckwith.

The idea is that as more and more women fill higher roles, there will be more women available to continue doing the job.

There is still time for Trump to appoint and hire women into his currently male-centric White House, and that could bring eventually change both the country and its politics.

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