Eureka! Women Fare Worse on Capitol Hill, Says Politico (Also: Everywhere)

Today in news that’s not surprising (but kudos to Politico for reporting it anyway): women in Congress face an uphill battle. President Obama's Supreme Court shortlist may be packed with women—and his first act in office may have been to sign a long-stalled law promising equal pay for equal work—but on Capitol Hill, as in business, and media, the second sex still struggles to obtain elite staff positions. "In general, women have no problem getting hired on the Hill: data show that in House offices women are filling entry-level positions, such as staff assistant and scheduler, in droves," Politico writes. "But in influential management and legislative positions, their numbers plummet."

By looking at several studies of House of Representatives compensation studies, Politico—which has faced its own criticism over lack of diversity (as has NEWSWEEK)—determined that the number of female chiefs of staff in the House has increased by only about 6 percent in the past five years, bringing women to 41 percent. In lower ranks, however, women dominate: they fill 84 percent of executive-assistant and 82 percent of scheduler jobs, secretarial-type positions that typically pay an average of $48,000 to $59,000 annually. (By contrast, according to Politico, many chiefs of staff in the House make an average of $134,000 a year.)

It’s a worthy investigation that sheds light on what is an increasingly visible problem in America, at a time when—it appears on the surface, anyway—women are doing better than ever. For the first time in history, women have surpassed men as the majority of American workers, and they are the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two thirds of American households. Meanwhile, highly visible female faces like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Nancy Pelosi fill our airwaves. But the reality, as the Politico report illuminates, is that secretary is still the top job for women in this country, followed by nurse, teacher, and cashier. Women without children, on average, earn 20 percent less than men—across a variety of fields—and we still make up less than a quarter of politicians and law-firm partners, and just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOS, according to a recent report by the White House Project.

We’ve come a long way, baby—but we’ve got a long way to go.

Find the author on the Web at The Equality Myth.