Colorado

Democratic Female Staffers Suffer Wage Gap in Colorado Legislature

Policy

“If you’re a woman, there is no way you can vote Republican.” This was the message from Eva Longoria during a Women for Obama campaign rally in Colorado last month. Records provided by the Colorado Legislative Council detailing legislative staff salaries for Senate and House staffers at the Capitol tell a different story.

According to data available from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, women in Colorado average 77.7 percent of the median earnings of men in Colorado. This average is around 4 points lower than the national average of 81.2%. In 2009, Colorado was ranked 10th in the nation in women’s median wages according to data from Forbes magazine and reported in the Denver Business Journal.

There are currently eight women and 12 men filling legislative staff positions in the Colorado General Assembly. The House Majority, currently held by Republicans, has three staff positions filled by two women and one man. The Senate Minority, also held by Republicans, has six positions filled with two women and four men. The Senate Majority, currently held by Democrats, has a four four split of women and men filling eight staff positions. The House Minority, currently held by Democrats, has three positions, all of which are held by men.

Out of the eight women working as legislative staff, two make less than the mean wage of $47,510 in Colorado. While these two examples both show a wage beneath the Colorado average, the Executive Assistant to the Senate Majority Leader, a position that earns a private sector average of $51,510 is paid $36,000 annually, or just 70 percent of her private sector equivalent. In contrast, the female Research Assistant for the House Majority is paid $42,000 annually, or 96 percent of the private sector equivalent for Research Assistants.

In the Republican controlled House, the Constituent Outreach/Communications Assistant position, which is held by a woman, had an annual salary of $47,000 while the average for the equivalent private sector position in Denver was $49,590, or 95 percent of the average wage for her private sector equivalent in Denver. Since there are no female staffers hired by the Democratic House Minority, there is no direct comparison to be made. That said, the male Communications Assistant for the House Minority, a temporary position, is paid $3,000 a month, or an equivalent annual salary of $36,000 — 77 percent of his female counterpart in the House Majority staff.

Records for the Senate Majority staff show women earning 82 percent of their private sector equivalents. At first glance this number would seem to be a point in the Democratic Senate Majority’s favor, but looking at the wages of the four women on staff shows this number is inflated by the Executive Assistant to the Senate President, who earns $52,000 annually, or 101 percent of the Denver average for her private sector equivalent. The Public Relations Director for the Senate Majority earns $47,000 annually, 74 percent of the Denver average for her private sector counterpart. Additionally, the aforementioned Executive Assistant to the Majority Leader takes home a meager $36,000 compared to her private sector equivalent’s salary of $51,507. Again, this is just 70 percent of the average in Denver for the same position.

While we are sure to hear more about the “War on Women” in the months leading up to the election in November, the data available shows a wage gap existing for women employed by Democrats at the Capitol.

* All private sector equivalent salary averages for Denver can be found at the BLS website.

Follow Aaron Gardner on Twitter: @aaron_rs

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