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A battle over gender pay gaps at USAID

For five years, a group of women who reached the highest level of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s foreign service has been battling with the agency over whether or not they were unfairly paid less than their male counterparts.

Beth Paige was serving as USAID’s mission director in Jordan in 2015 when she noticed something strange: Her male deputy, a foreign service officer who ranked lower and had spent less time at the agency, was making more money than she was.

What began as an internal conversation with USAID’s leadership snowballed into a legal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Paige, who is now retired, and her former colleague and fellow USAID Career Minister Monica Stein-Olson say they have poured countless hours and over $100,000 into the case. They see it as a final chapter in a three-decade struggle for gender equity at an agency that promotes women’s rights around the world.

Officials at USAID say they have looked into the women’s concerns and found no evidence of gender-based pay discrimination within the agency’s foreign service. Documents produced by USAID’s lawyers attribute the discrepancies to differences in pay increase rates at different ranks.

But in reporting the case, I heard from Paige, Stein-Olson, and others still at USAID about ways that the agency’s foreign service — which was originally designed by and for men — often puts disproportionate pressure on women to juggle career and family responsibilities.

After three decades negotiating those tradeoffs and fighting for equity, the women behind the case say that to find out at the very end they were still underpaid was “the final insult.”

New money

Eight of the world’s 10 richest people made their fortunes in the tech industry — and now that they have money, tech entrepreneurs are changing the way we think about giving it away. Even within the gilded circle of tech philanthropists, there is a battle for ideas over what effective giving looks like.

For a while, the Gates model of big foundations and hands-on agenda-setting seemed to hold sway. More recently we’ve seen the rise of “trust-based philanthropy,” with billionaires such as Jack Dorsey and — especially — MacKenzie Scott trying to get out of the way of their own money.

“A lot of global development organizations have to think through whether they’re going to develop the unique skills and capacities to work with donors, especially tech donors, and many of them underestimate the task,” says Alexa Cortes Culwell of Open Impact.


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