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The Pay Gap at the Clinton Foundation Offers Insight Into the Opportunity Gap

Topics: Data & Research

Last month, CNN revealed that the pay gap on the leadership team at the Clinton Foundation was large enough that a public relations expert warned that it might cause problems for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

pay gap at the clinton foundation
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

“There are huge discrepancies, and it wouldn’t surprise me if [reporters] went here next,” PR expert Ian Mandel said, in an email released by WikiLeaks. Mandel’s concern arose in the wake of media reports (like this one, from The Washington Free Beacon) claiming that Clinton paid female staffers less than men in her time as senator.

In 2014, according to CNN, the average pay gap on the leadership team was $81,000, with women earning “72 cents for every dollar a male executive made on average.”

Not great optics, as they say, for a candidate who champions pay equity. But is this analysis of the pay gap at the Clinton Foundation fair?

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The Clinton Foundation’s Response

“Let me be clear?—?recent allegations on pay discrepancies at the Clinton Foundation are inaccurate,” wrote Clinton Foundation President Donna E. Shalala, in a blog post on the Foundation’s site. “These calculations are based only on a handful of salaries that do not provide an accurate portrayal of the leadership and staff at Clinton Foundation.”

Shalala pointed to a Politifact fact-check of an Instagram post by Republican nominee Donald Trump, apparently based on the same numbers. The fact-check found that the allegations are “guilty of ignoring the nuances of gender-based wage disparities, just as Democrats often over-simplify the meaning of the 77-cent figure” and that the report “accounts for just a fraction of all employees in the organization?—?and even of senior management at the foundation.”

In fact, the site found that the “statement is partially accurate but takes things out of context, so we rate it Half True.”

Among the issues, according to Politifact: the number of salaries in the sample is too small to provide insight into the Foundation’s compensation strategy, and includes all senior leadership — meaning, both the CEO and lesser-paid roles like director.

However, Politifact does note, “Any way you look at it, among those eight to 12 high-ranking foundation employees, the men consistently earned more than women.”

The Pay Gap Is Also an Opportunity Gap

So, what’s going on here? While acknowledging the fact that we’re dealing with a pretty small sample here — 10 or so executives, depending on the year — it’s also worth viewing the situation as a potential example of the opportunity gap.

When we talk about the gender pay gap, we can’t just talk about one number. While it’s true that women earn 74 cents for every dollar a man earns, that’s comparing all men to all women. PayScale’s data show that the controlled gender pay gap, meaning the difference in pay between men and women with the same job titles, education, and experience, is much smaller — 97 cents on the dollar.

Why the discrepancy? In part, it’s because women are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for family, but that’s not the only reason why women earn less. Another key factor is this: women are less likely than men to work in high-paying occupations, and less likely to be promoted when they do:


Take a look at the Clinton Foundation’s publicly available financial statements for 2014, and you’ll see how pay shakes out for the highest-compensated employees:

Eric Braverman, CEO: $498,847

Bruce R Lindsay, Chairman of the Board: $361,407

Maura Pally, Executive Director: $271,943

Mark Gunton, CEO, CGEP: $270,798

Dennis Cheng, Chief Development Officer: $245,000

Robert S Harrison, CEO, CGI: $214,382

Scott Taitel, COO, CGEP: $193,915

Amitabh Desai, Foreign Policy Director: $193,740

Laura Graham, Senior Advisor: $188,150

Andrew Kessel, CFO: $181,815

Alexis Blane, Assistant Sec & Assoc Gen Coun: $154,316

Scott Curran, Assistant Secretary & Gen Coun: $152,005

Stephanie S Streett, Executive Director, Secretary: $145,758

Of the 13 highest paid employees in 2014, four were female — but only one was in the top five. Her salary was about 55 percent of the highest salary on the list, which belonged to the (male) CEO.

Again, you could argue that this sample is too small to be statistically significant in terms of policy at the Clinton Foundation. Regardless, these numbers are interesting because they remind us that women are still less likely than men to be CEO, at a non-profit like the Clinton Foundation or anywhere else. Until that stops being the case, the gender pay gap is here to stay.

Tell Us What You Think

Does it matter if the gender pay gap is partly an opportunity gap? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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