WASHINGTON – In a perfect world, the workforce would be a gender-blind place – a place, maybe, that looks like Rep. Raul Grijalva’s office, where women occupy three of the four top-paid jobs.
“It’s so common to us, and to me here, that I didn’t pay special notice to it – and that’s probably the best thing you can say about it,” said Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat, when told his was one of a few Hill offices with women commanding the top jobs.
That was one of the findings of a quick Cronkite News review this week of salaries that Arizona’s congressional delegation members pay to their staffers.
Grijalva wasn’t the only Arizona legislator with women heavily represented in the top positions on their staffs. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, has women in three of the top four jobs in her office.
(Wo)Man of the House
The gender and pay for chiefs of staff in Arizona’s congressional offices. House numbers are for the quarter, October to December 2015; Senate numbers are for the six months from April to September.
Every member of the 11-member delegation had at least one woman among the top four jobs, and the three women who held the top job in each office, chief of staff, earned salaries solidly in the middle of their male counterparts in the delegation.
The salary review – from reports filed with the Statement of Disbursements of the House and the Report of the Secretary of the Senate – comes after Equal Pay Day, the point to which advocates say a woman has to work in order to earn as much as a man earned by Dec. 31 of the preceding year.
Equal Pay Day this year was April 12. It was marked by advocates pushing Congress to act on stalled equal-pay legislation and President Barack Obama proclaiming National Equal Pay Day and establishing a new national monument in Washington to the women’s equality movement.
There’s still work to be done. According to the American Association of University Women reported women nationwide in 2014 made 79 cents for every $1 earned by a man.
Arizona fared slightly better. The National Partnership for Women and Families reported this month that median annual pay for an Arizona woman with a full-time, year-round job is $36,916, while the median annual pay for a man with a full-time, year-round job is $43,945, or about 84 cents to the dollar. Still, that was good for ninth-smallest gap in the nation.
But Grijalva said it’s more than just a numbers game.
“You know your hard work and your drive will separate you from other people, not just your sex,” he said.
The top job in a congressional office is usually chief of staff – a job that was held by a woman in only three of the state’s 11 congressional offices. But their salaries, ranging from $37,949 to $42,000 for the last quarter of the year, were competitive with the men’s on the House side, with three offices lower than that and two higher.
Lisa Maatz, an American Association of University Women spokeswoman, commended Grijalva’s inclusion of women in top positions.
“It’s what makes Mr. Grijalva so important, right, and so impressive, because he’s got women in those top slots,” Maatz said. “That means not only he probably doesn’t have an equal pay problem, he also doesn’t have a leadership gap either.”
Grijalva said he hadn’t really thought about it.
“But now that you brought it up, and asked me the question, it feels good,” Grijalva said.
-Cronkite News video by Wafa Shahid