Even in the political environment of Washington, which thrives on disagreement, most people agree that women working for the government are paid less than men. They get about 87 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the latest study by the Office of Personnel Management.
It is often relatively easy to determine the who, what, where and when of some event, action or crime. The “why” part is usually the toughie. That’s true whether it is a disappeared Malaysian airliner, a little girl missing from a D.C. homeless shelter, or something as complex as pay inequity.
So why are women in government (and most other places) paid less than men even in our enlightened age where transparency is mandatory. Is it simply a long history of sexism? Does the pregnant-and-barefoot school of thought still have students?
Somebody will probably make a bundle doing a study (paid for by the taxpayers) of pay inequity between the sexes in government. But will they find the real answer?
The issue is somewhat similar to the question of why private sector workers make more than federal employees. Or why civil servants out-earn those in the business world. Both claims have lots of believers.
There have been dozens of studies about federal vs. private sector pay. Some have an ax to grind. They either want to prove that civil servants are wretched wage slaves or that bureaucrats are hogs at the trough.
In a 2012 study of federal vs. private sector pay, the Congressional Research Service said (in much more scientific language) that the distance you measure depends on the yardstick or ruler that you use. In other words, it depends. Here’s one segment from the 100-plus page report many say is the best on the subject:
“In evaluating claims about federal pay, there appear to be two basic approaches to comparing compensation in the federal and private-sector workforces-the human capital approach and the jobs analysis approach. The human capital approach attempts to account for as many observable characteristics of individual workers as possible (e.g., education, experience) that are known to affect individual compensation. The jobs analysis approach, on the other hand, focuses on matching comparable jobs in different sectors rather than workers with similar demographic characteristics in those sectors. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive but may be difficult to combine given data limitations.”
Unless the latest round of agency pay reviews comes up with answers to male pay supremacy, somebody may have to find a new way of looking at sex and salaries. We keep getting the same (updated) data, asking the same questions with no answers in sight.
It would be a change if the experts asked the real experts. Boots-in-the-cubicle insiders. The men and women of government? The question: How come?
Meantime, today at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio program Pat Neihaus, president of the Federal Managers Association is going to talk about what’s facing feds on the political front, the pay squeeze on GS-15 feds in many cities, and the men vs. women salary issue. We’ll be joined by Andy Medici and Nicole Blake Johnson from the Federal Times. They’ll talk about the pay issue, changes in the Combined Federal Campaign, the Ryan budget, HeartBleed and other sharing cybersecurity issues safely.
Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.
Game company Hasbro, which owns Scrabble, announced it has added the word “geocache,” to the official game dictionary. The word describes a recreational activity in which people hunt for hidden objects using GPS coordinates. Scrabble experts say there is a 1 in 563,033 chance of drawing the word from a full bag of 100 letter tiles.
OPM to begin survey of feds later this month The Office of Personnel Management is preparing to take the temperature of the federal workforce. The annual survey tracking federal workers’ job satisfaction across an array of factors will be sent to employees later this month, according to a memo to agency heads from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.