A transformation is underway in presidential politics.
After decades of taking home less pay and fighting to have a say in major decisions, women are now a dominant force at the highest levels of Democratic presidential campaigns — and they’re getting paid equitably for their work, a POLITICO analysis shows.
A review of federal election records and internal campaign data show the six women running for president have filled nearly 60 percent of their senior leadership with women. In a review of salaried senior positions, POLITICO identified 53 individuals who are central to the campaigns of Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson. Of those, 31 were women.
The trend extends to the three top-polling male candidates. POLITICO identified 24 positions central to the campaigns of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Of those, 13, or 54 percent, were held by women.
More than two dozen strategists, analysts and campaign advisers who spoke to POLITICO said the hiring and pay trends they’re seeing this presidential cycle represent a sea change in an industry long dominated by men. No longer elbowed out of major decision-making, women more than ever are shaping messaging and strategy as well as steering policy and financial decisions of presidential campaigns.
Anne Caprara, who ran Hillary Clinton’s 2016 super PAC, Priorities USA, said for years it was common for female staffers to earn $10,000 or $20,000 less than men for doing the same work on different campaigns, or even within the same operation.
“On behalf of all the women who have worked on campaigns, it is about fucking time that this has happened — and you can quote me on that,” Caprara said. “I really relish the day when this is not a story, when we’re not having these conversations of ‘are we paying men and women equal?’”
There is still one major hurdle within campaigns, however. When it comes to the role of campaign manager, women were nearly shut out in top-tier campaigns. None of the female candidates or male candidates polling in the top three positions is paying a woman to fill that post. There is an asterisk with Gabbard, whose sister is in that position but not receiving a salary.
Women fare better when the entire field is considered, however: Six of 22 Democratic hopefuls, or 27 percent, have each hired a woman to manage their campaign. That is less than the 40 percent of Democratic congressional campaigns managed by women in the 2018 midterms, according to the party’s House elections arm.
“[Some women on campaigns] didn’t get the big title, but as time has gone by, slowly campaigns are getting better about that,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008. “She really empowered me to hire women and pay them as much as I would pay a man doing the same work. All of the senior people made the same amount of money and we put women — not just women, but women of color — around the senior table. It was important to Hillary and it was important for me to do.”
The POLITICO analysis found that in the campaigns of female candidates — as well as those of the three top-polling men — women with few exceptions drew salaries on par with men for positions within the same or similar job classification.
While in some campaigns compensation varied even within the senior rank due to experience or job classification, at least one candidate made the pay-equity issue crystal clear: Elizabeth Warren’s senior management team is majority female, seven women and six men. They are all paid the same annual salary of $156,000.
In Harris’ campaign, seven of eight senior staffers are women, including the finance director who pulls in the highest salary of the group. Klobuchar pays her highest salary to a woman serving as her policy consultant. Gillibrand’s core team is made up of eight people, five of whom are women. In her case, the highest salary goes to her campaign manager, who is a man.
“This is the first campaign season where we have a record number of women running for president, managing major candidates, leading the war room, supervising hundreds of field staffers and reporting on the presidential campaign,” said former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, a campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000. “Women have not only earned their seats at the table, they have also earned the right to be compensated for the tremendous work they are doing.”
Pay comparisons among campaigns were more difficult to make due to varying structures, job titles and responsibilities within each operation.
But an overview of the individual salaries shows that, for the most part, women were paid equitably to men when rank and experience were taken into account. The revelation comes as the U.S. Women’s national soccer team has stirred a national debate over pay inequity, and as women in the overall labor market earn 81.4 percent of what men do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the world of political campaigns, none of this was the case even a decade ago.
“You were excluded. You absolutely had to break down doors,” said Patricia Ewing, who serves as communications director for Marianne Williamson. Ewing has managed congressional and senatorial campaigns since the 1980s and served as a deputy chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore. “It was much harder in that sense to run a campaign because you were running two campaigns at once — you were running one to keep the power you were given in the beginning, and one to run the campaign itself.”
In the analysis, POLITICO drew data from the latest Federal Election Commission filings, public records and the campaigns themselves to determine who made up senior leadership. In many cases, consultants who play major roles were not included because their salaries were not itemized in FEC reports and the campaigns would not separately release the information. The exception was Warren, who pays two consultants through other entities. They are paid the same amount, $156,000, as the rest of the senior leadership, according to the campaign.
Campaign representatives note that salary figures found in public records represent the net pay received by the employees and might differ among staffers, depending on deductions for health insurance and other benefits.
On Donald Trump’s campaign senior team, five of 11 salaried campaign staffers are women. But of the total 19 senior staffers Trump’s campaign pointed to, eight are women.
The hiring and pay trends are also true in the campaigns of the three top-polling male candidates. Overall, women made up more than half of the core group of their senior salaried employees.
Bernie Sanders’ senior staff includes six women and five men. Five of the eight senior staff positions in Joe Biden’s campaign are filled by women.
Pete Buttigieg’s core senior team includes three men and two women, but the campaign said it counts 22 people in all in its senior staff — 12 of them women. The campaign said it makes pay equity such a priority that it regularly audits internal personnel data to make sure there’s no inequity based on gender. Of its 300 employees, women are paid $1.11 to every $1 men are paid, according to Buttigieg aides.
Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said campaigns that hire and pay women and people of color equitably are sending an important signal.
“If they have a campaign that looks like America,” Walsh said, “they’re more likely to have a Cabinet and a government that looks like America.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine