In Idaho Governor's Cabinet, women make less money than men

Idaho StatesmanMarch 20, 2012 

Idaho Agriculture Director Celia Gould has been with Gov. Butch Otter from the first day of his administration in 2007, having been a leading figure in his campaign and a respected former legislator.

She is the highest-paid of the women in Otter’s Cabinet but ranks just 16th among all top full-time officials. The median salary for 11 women in the Cabinet is $85,446; the median for the 33 men is $103,002.

“We really do have a glass ceiling in Idaho,” said Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum, the senior Democrat in the Legislature and a member of the budget committee.

Jaquet compared Gould to Commerce Director Jeffrey Sayer, who was hired in October. Gould oversees 259 employees, Sayer 53. Based on Jan. 1 pay records now searchable at IdahoStatesman.com, Gould makes $106,621. Sayer makes $145,018.

“Director Gould is about $38,000 under the newly employed Jeff Sayer,” Jaquet said. “You can’t argue she doesn’t have as many employees. Our state is no different than the national averages that show women reach a ‘glass ceiling’ for promotion and pay.”

Jaquet also noted the difference between Gould and Otter’s budget chief, Wayne Hammon, who directs the 18-employee Division of Financial Management. Hammon makes $115,918, about $9,300 more than Gould.

When Otter hired Gould, he set her pay at $90,002, $626 or 0.7 percent more than her male predecessor, Pat Takasugi. Sayer is paid 66 percent more than his predecessor, Don Dietrich, who made $87,568.

OTTER SILENT

Otter and Gould declined comment for this story. Sayer and Hammon did not reply to emails and phone messages.

Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, commented in an email:

“The governor is concerned about the pay of all state employees. It is why one of the first things he did as governor was to push for a pay increase for state workers. As you know, the downturn in the national economy forced us to scale back, and temporarily delay(s) our efforts to increase state workers pay. However, addressing pay inequities at all levels of state government remains a priority for this administration and as the economy improves, we will continue to address those issues, as we are doing with a CEC (change in employee compensation) this year.”

Asked whether Otter considers the gender gap in his Cabinet a “pay inequity,” Hanian did not reply. Nor did he reply to a question about why Sayer was hired at substantially higher pay to run a far smaller agency than Gould.

NATIONAL PAY GAP

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, joined Jaquet last month in seeking an audit of state pay. The Office of Performance Evaluations hopes to complete the review before the 2013 Legislature convenes next winter. The study will focus on lawmakers’ concerns that the state is losing quality employees across the board.

Broadsword said she finds the gender pay gap unsurprising.

“This is not an Idaho-centric problem, but one that is nationwide,” Broadsword said. “Women continue to be viewed as subordinate to men and not worth as much as men when it comes to the same pay for the same job.”

Women in Otter’s Cabinet make 83 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Nationally, median pay for women was 82 percent of what men made in the last quarter of 2011, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study of full-time wage and salary workers.

The median pay for 57 million men in the U.S. workforce was $43,836, while the median for 45 million working women was $35,776.

According to a study released last week, the Boise-Nampa metro area ranks eighth among the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas in the male-female pay gap. Using Census Bureau data, 24/7 Wall St., an online news site for investors, said women’s pay of $32,514 amounts to 72 percent of what men make in Ada and Canyon counties, $44,908.

OTHER FACTORS

Broadsword also cited another possible reason women in the Idaho Cabinet make less: The agencies they run may not be as vital in the eyes of policymakers. “I suspect it is not always that it is a female director who is paid less, but an agency which is not as important.”

House Revenue & Tax Committee Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said he doesn’t see discrimination.

“Rather, I suspect that the pay differential is the job description differential and/or time in the position,” he said. “For example, I suspect the pay for (Parks and Recreation Director) Nancy Merrill’s position would be the same whether a man or woman held the job.”

Merrill is one of eight Cabinet members hired by a board or commission. Otter appoints all the members of those panels and designates whom he considers a Cabinet member.

Merrill, a former mayor of Eagle, said she hadn’t noticed the gender gap and believes Otter is “pleased with the performance of his women” Cabinet members. “He certainly has supported me.”

Merrill added that when she was hired in 2009, she “had to accept hiring of a deputy director for the same pay as I was getting.”

Though she’s the boss, Merrill makes $83,320, the same salary as her male deputy director, Dave Ricks.

“I wanted to work for Idaho State Parks, so I accepted the stipulations attached with the job,” said Merrill. “I do not have an answer as to why women lag so significantly. I believe we are well qualified to perform the same jobs in a professional manner.”

IS THERE A POLICY?

In explaining Otter’s decision to decline comment, Hanian said Otter would not “be the individual to walk you through the position classification system and explain it.”

Vicki Tokita, administrator of Otter’s Division of Human Resources, did not reply to requests for comment. Tokita, who makes $95,680, is the second-highest-paid woman in the Cabinet.

Tana Cory, Otter’s chief of the Bureau of Occupational Licenses, said looking at the figures alone might cause some to have concerns. But, Cory said, “It is not troubling because I do not believe a list tells the whole story.”

Cory makes $74,610, the second-lowest figure of the 44 full-time Cabinet members. But the figure would be higher, Cory said, had Otter had his way.

“The governor has recommended increases to this position’s salary,” she said. “However, I have not always accepted his recommendation.”

The bureau is financed by fees paid by members of 28 professions, from barbers and cosmetologists to geologists and shorthand reporters.

“As a dedicated-fund agency, any increases would be passed on to our licensees, and I am sensitive to that in our current economy,” Cory said. “Additionally, my focus is not on my own salary but on the salaries of those who work for the bureau. So, when we have an increase in (pay), I prefer to pass on as much as possible to the employees.”

Read more at at idahostatesman.com

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