The Atrocious Pay Gap Between Virginia Clerks

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Virginia legislators have moved to correct one of the most blatant examples of gender pay disparity to have been recently reported in the state. Until recently, the female clerk for Virginia's State Senate earned annually nearly $19,000 less annually than the male clerk of the state's House of Delegates, despite having 21 more years of experience. Thanks to action by Republicans in Virginia's State Senate, however, that female clerk now earns the same salary as her male counterpart. And it's about damn time.

In January, Virginia State Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment found a glaring discrepancy between the salary Virginia Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar, who had been on the job for 27 years, and that of Virginia House of Delegates Clerk G. Paul Nardo, who had been working nearly six years. While Nardo took home $194,341, Schaar's salary was only $175,392, the Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported.

In an effort to fix the discrepancy, which many have called one of the most obvious examples of the gender wage gap, state Sen. Norment introduced a budget amendment to raise Schaar's salary to match that paid to Nardo. "I just think that she's entitled to be compensated at the same level as the clerk of the House," Sen. Norment told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in January when he first proposed the amendment. "She's been here 30 years."

Schaar began working for the State Senate clerk office in 1974 but did not take over the job of head Virginia Senate clerk until 1990, the Washington Post has reported. Nardo was named clerk of Virginia's House of Delegates in 2011. He was given a raise (in addition to routine raises received by all employees) of more than $23,000 in 2015 by House Speaker William J. Howell, a man Nardo once served as chief of staff for prior to being elected clerk.

While Democrats in Virginia's House of Delegates supported Republican State Sen. Norment's amendment, some House Republicans pushed back. They argued Nardo earned more because he did more work. "The clerk in the House of Delegates is the keeper of the rolls," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Del. S. Chris Jones said during debate over the amendment in February. "Next year when we get here, his office and he [will] take care of the inauguration. So the jobs are not equal in what they do as far as their task at hand."

With the amendment seemingly stalled, the Virginia state Senate Rules Committee, which Sen. Norment co-chairs, authorized a raise that would place Schaar's salary at $195,500. Schaar told the Richmond Times-Dispatch she was satisfied with the outcome.

But many women aren't lucky enough to have state legislators see to it that they're paid an equal wage. According to the American Association of University Women, women working full-time and year-round earned about 80 cents for every dollar a full-time year-round male worker earned in 2015. For women of color, pay gaps are even wider.