Former White House communications director Anita Dunn, who once claimed the White House was a “hostile workplace” for woman on audio tape for the book “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind, went on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper on Tuesday to defend the recent revelations that the Obama administration pays its woman staff less then their male counterparts. She debated Genevieve Wood, senior contributor for The Foundry at the Heritage Foundation.
Partial transcript as follows:
TAPPER: Genevieve, the White House’s message has been modeled somewhat by this study showing that women at the White House make less than men at the White House. What does that have to do with the national debate on this issue?
WOOD: Well, the problem for the president on this is, look, because if you take everybody together and average all men and women salary, you have a problem at the White House. But if you compare women to men in the same job with similar background, similar experiences that they brief to the table, the wage gap all but disappears. Women have made great strides. Instead of celebrating that, this is a political year, the White House wants to portray this war on women.
Not only are the numbers wrong — young women today in metropolitan areas, for example, are actually outperforming males in that same category all over the country but the problem with that is, they hear this kind of rhetoric. That discourages young women, makes them have a lack of confidence and prevents them from doing the one thing that would get them to where they need to be, which is to have the confidence to ask for a salary. We ought to be celebrating where women are.
DUNN: I’m going to jump in a little on that because I think that it’s true that women are making enormous progress, but you know, as well as I do, that as they get older in the workforce, that those disparities start to grow and there are all kinds of reasons that that happens and an important discussion across the board is how do we continue to make sure that the progress continues and how do we —
WOOD: I absolutely agree.
DUNN: Let me address the White House —
WOOD: No, let me —
TAPPER: Finish your point.
DUNN: Let me finish my point, which is that the reality here is that in almost any workplace right now, in the private sector, you’re still going to have — you’re going to have more men at senior levels. If you look at corporate boards, for example, women are still only 17 percent of corporate boards. If you look at corporate CEOs, and we’re making progress. The debate we’re having is, how do we make sure women have equal pay in the workplace and how do we make sure that corporations are looking for ways to —
WOOD: Here’s the reality. We have equal pay in the workplace. According to the Department of Labor who did the study in 2009, if you compare job to job, experience to experience and you break the same experience to the table, they are making the same and the problem that the president wants to do is come in and say to employers, look, you have to pay — regardless if it’s sex discrimination or not, we already have laws on the federal and state level to allow anybody to sue whether it’s a woman or any other reason that you’re being discriminated against —
DUNN: That is not true.
WOOD: It is true. What a factual here —
TAPPER: What are you saying that is not true?
DUNN: Well, the president is not ordering contractors to pay everybody the same wage because of gender.
WOOD: I’m talking about the paycheck fairness act.
TAPPER: What he’s pushing Congress to pass.
WOOD: It would allow an employee to sue an employer if they are not getting the paid the same in the same position or title that they have. That encourages — maybe you worked a little harder. Let’s say you’re a woman and you have more experience than the guy sitting next to you. Your employer is going to be discouraged from giving you performance raises and bonuses.
WOOD: Because the guy next to you can say I’m not making the same. I’m in the same position as you are. Employers are going to be discouraged from giving those bonuses and raise in pay because —
DUNN: This is an argument that, you know, is being made right now because they really don’t want to talk about the real issue here. I’m a little surprised because I think Genevieve has made very good points about the progress women have made and in terms of going into the higher paid professions. But the reality is that it does not force everybody to pay everybody the same amount regardless of experience, regardless of seniority. What it does say, if you have a man and woman and they are performing at the same level, same job, they should get the same salary.
WOOD: No, that’s not what it says. It empowers employees who say that they are in those positions to be able to sue their employer when they can already do that. And Jake, let’s be clear —
DUNN: So what’s the problem if they already do it?
WOOD: This is about pay in the workforce, right?
WOOD: We have fewer people today either with a job or looking for a job that we have had since 1978 in this country. My point is, that’s what we ought to be focused on. If you don’t have a job, forget the pay.
TAPPER: I want to ask you very quickly, you worked at the White House. Did you sense there was unfairness when it came to how women and men were paid for the same job?
DUNN: No. And actually the transparency that the president has suggested for federal contractors is why we are having the discussion. You can look at it. What we need to do is we need to — that’s a false static and you know it.
TAPPER: OK. I’m sorry to say. We have to go. Fantastic job by two women. Anita Dunn and Genevieve Wood, thank you for joining us.
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