Gender Pay Gap: Hillary dismisses accusations of unfair wages

by Stefania Sarrubba and Valeria Fiore

During a speech at Las Vegas Town Hall in August, a little girl stood up and asked the Democratic presidential candidate whether she would be paid as much as a “boy president.” After taking a picture with the girl, Hillary Clinton replied: “Well, this is one of the jobs where they have to pay you the same.”

It is down to the Congress to set presidential salaries. According to Article 2, section I of the US Constitution, the president cannot modify their salary when they are still finishing the presidential mandate. The last increase was in 1991 under Bill Clinton, who revalued the annual presidential income to $400,000. The first to enjoy this enhanced fortune was George W. Bush. “As president, I am going to do everything I can to make sure not just a president gets paid the same whether it’s a woman or a man. But every woman in every job gets paid the same as the men that are doing that job!” said Mrs Clinton, elaborating her response on the presidential salary.

Gender pay gap is a very delicate matter where more than salary itself is at stake. During the Oscars ceremony 2015 in Los Angeles, Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette gave her famous speech in which she advocated for fairer, equal wages in the Hollywood industry. Those few lines written on a crinkled piece of paper put the whole issue under the spotlight. Forbes revealed that Jennifer Lawrence, the world’s highest-paid actress, made $52 million in the 12 months to June 2015, while her male counterpart Robert Downey Jr earned $80 million.

Hillary Clinton immediately joined the Arquette’s call for equality, broadening the scope to everyday life and jobs. The Democratic candidate has always been vocal when it comes to women’s rights: on Equal Pay Day in April, she moved publicly toward closing the gender pay gap and promised she would continue in this direction if elected.

The American Association of University Women revealed that the US’s GPG was 80% in 2015. This means a woman gets paid just 80% of a man salary for doing the very same job throughout one year. Such gap can grow bigger for women belonging to ethnic minorities, with African American and Hispanic women earning respectively 64 and 54 cents for every dollar banked by white men. Discrepancies are observed in different US states.

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Working towards the reduction of the GPG is a crucial point in Clinton’s campaign. In the past, Hillary was accused of paying her female employees less than male employees, according to a report published in The Washington Free Beacon. This report assessed the difference in the salaries of women working in the Clinton senate office. Analysis of the collected data showed that for every 72 cents given to women, men were getting one dollar. This report was later discredited by the Clinton campaign as too approximate, since it did not take into account the number of women that left before the end of their contract or those taking short unpaid leaves. Although Hillary Clinton behaved as a fair employer, salary differences linger at the White House and within The Clinton Foundation.

However, Donna Shalala, President of the Clinton Foundation, said that these allegations were inaccurate since they only examined a small sample, and did not give an adequate representation of leadership and staff working for the association. In addition, the gap can be explained by the fact that staff are paid according to their different roles.

Although Clinton has claimed that she has adopted an equal pay policy, Trump supporters are still relying on the WikiLeaks revelations to attack her. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been vague about equal pay, relegating it to his wife Melania Trump, who in a speech addressing American women said that she would do what she could to help reduce the gender pay gap.

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