41 percent wage gap not what it seems, Dunleavy administration says

Published: Feb. 27, 2019 at 6:01 PM AKST
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Same job. Different pay.

A salary and position list of executive branch employees for the State of Alaska reveals the directors for the governor's Mat-Su and Fairbanks offices are making significantly different salaries.

Lynn Gattis, who's heading up the Mat-Su office, is making $52,224.

Jim Sackett, who's heading up the Fairbanks office, is making $125,004.

No stranger to politics and public service, Gattis, a business owner with a bachelor's degree in aviation technology, has served in the legislature and most recently, ran for lieutenant governor.

Sackett, Gattis's Fairbanks counterpart, is also a business owner, former teacher and holds masters degrees in business and theology. He's making $125,004 — nearly 2.5 times more than Gattis.

Wednesday, Matt Shuckerow, the governor's spokesperson, called suggestions of a gender-based pay disparity "ridiculous."

Shuckerow told KTUU six of 14 commissioners are women, as is the OMB director, the communications director, and the legislative director.

He attributed the apparent pay disparity between Gattis and Sackett to dissimilar positions, despite the identical titles.

Gattis was hired in a temporary role to "stand up" the Mat-Su office, he said, while Sackett's position is permanent full-time.

He said there is also variability in what executive branch employees do and the skills they bring to their positions.

Reached Wednesday by phone, Gattis declined to comment, but did say she loves her job and supports the governor.

Carolyn Jerome, a consultant with Avitus Group and a former hiring manager, told KTUU there's a natural tension between job seekers and employers. Employers want the best candidate for the least amount of money, while employees generally want the best job for the most amount of pay.

Gender bias is rare, she said.

Many factors may influence pay rates, including supply and demand, as well as a prospective employee's negotiating skills, education and experience levels.

"I don't think it's realistic that everyone in the same company is going to get the same amount for the same job," Jerome said.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, as of 2017, women in Alaska earned about 81 percent of what men do.

Gattis' salary is 41 percent of Sackett's.

Shuckerow said the governor is in the process of switching the Mat-Su position into a permanent, full-time role, and that Gattis has been asked to apply.