Home Fairfax County Female Chiefs of Staff for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Make $19k+/Year...

Female Chiefs of Staff for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Make $19k+/Year Less than Male Counterparts. Why?

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There are people out there, as I’m sure you’re aware, who don’t believe – despite evidence to the contrary – that women often make less money than their male counterparts for the same job. Some of these folks use their non-belief in the gender pay gap to argue that we don’t need the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). These people, of course, are generally known as “Republicans,” and/or “conservative men,” and they are almost singlehandedly blocking ratification of the ERA or taking other steps to remedy pay inequity. Check out the Virginia General Assembly, for instance, where white male Republicans have repeatedly killed ERA ratification and other measures to address this problem.

Given that background, you’d think that this would not be a problem in overwhelmingly “blue” jurisdictions like Fairfax County. And it CERTAINLY wouldn’t be a problem on the overwhelmingly (8-2) Democratic Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, right? But check out that graphic, above, and see for yourself. It turns out, per statistics sent to me by Fairfax County, that female Chiefs of Staff to Fairfax County Supervisors currently make, on average, $19,203.51 less than their male counterparts…in the same exact job category (Chief of Staff). Here are the 2018 numbers by employee name (men shaded in brown, women in yellow), job title, department, annual salary and Supervisor they work for.

Note that five of the top six Chief of Staff salaries are held by men, while three of the lowest four Chief of Staff salaries are held by women. The lowest-paid female Chiefs of Staff work for Democrats Cathy Hudgins (her Chief of staff makes $74,873), John Foust (his Chief of Staff makes $82,401) and Penny Gross (her Chief of Staff makes $82,821).

Also note that Hudgins, Foust and Gross are all senior members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, all with double-digit years on the Board, so that’s not the explanation. Also interesting is that the highest-paid female Chief of Staff works for Democrat Dan Storck, who was first elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November 2015. Hmmm, so what else could explain this situation?

Perhaps, I thought, the female Chiefs of Staff MIGHT be younger and/or with fewer years of experience than their male Chief of Staff counterparts? But…nope, that’s not the case. To the contrary, in fact; it turns out that most of the female Chiefs of Staff have been working for their Supervisor for many years – in most cases far longer than the male Chiefs of Staff. For instance, Mary Frances Tunick has been working for Fairfax County for something like 25 years and makes around $83k, while Taylor Holland, who is about 30 years younger than Tunick (and with the county about 4 years), makes around $91K.

Note, by the way, that the pay gap between male and female Chiefs of Staff in Congress is…zero. The pay gap between male and female legislative aides in Richmond is…zero. Yet the pay gap between male and female Chiefs of Staff on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor is…nearly 20K, in favor of the men. And this pay gap didn’t just develop yesterday; I looked back at 2016 statistics, and it was even worse then.
The question is, in a county that is heavily Democratic, why is this happening? One issue I’d point to is that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors doesn’t have a standardized pay scale, with people performing the same defined roles receiving the same pay (perhaps within a pay band, with step increases or whatever, as the federal and state governments do). The absence of such a professionalized, standardized system allows each individual supervisor to negotiate with their employees. One of the results, in the case of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, female Chiefs of Staff end up getting paid less than men, even if the women have years more experience and even if their boss has been on the County Board for a long time. Of course, problems like these are why professional organizations set up systems to avoid wage situations like this one. Apparently, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors isn’t one of those organizations, even though Fairfax County isn’t some podunk town, but with over 1.1 million people and a huge economy, is larger than several states.
If this were an isolated situation, it would be bad enough. But I’d argue that Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors has been disappointing in a number of ways for such a Democratic, progressive county. This is a county, after all, that claims to love schools and teachers and schools, but can’t/won’t fund them adequately. This is a county that claims to care about the environment – it touts itself as a “Cool County” aiming to slash greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 – yet has done very little on this front. Then there are issues like this, as the ACLU “filed charges against Fairfax County and the fire department…on behalf of two of the highest-ranking women in the Fairfax County Fire Department…over sexual harassment complaints.” Not good.
But back to the main point of this post, which is to try and understand why female Chiefs of Staff on the county’s Board of Supervisors are paid almost $20k less than their male counterparts…for the same exact job description? Anyone have a plausible explanation that doesn’t reflect badly on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and its management, leadership (or lack thereof), etc?