Majority of Public and Private Sector Employees Willing to Work for the Other; Gender Pay Gaps Persist

Reston, VA – September 26, 2017 – HireStrategy, a leading provider of professional staffing services for the Washington, D.C. metro, today released results of a survey on workplace attitudes of D.C. employees. The survey not only examines general workplace topics like employee satisfaction and trust in employers, but also digs into Washington, D.C.-specific issues like fluidity between public and private sector, commuting, and more.

“We, of course, already know that the Washington, D.C. and the surrounding metro area have an employment market unlike anywhere else in the country. However, there are a lot of preconceived notions about the type of people and positions available here,” said Chris Vennitti, President of HireStrategy. “With this survey, we wanted to uncover more insight into D.C. work culture and better understand the motivations of employees that choose to work in this environment.”

Public Versus Private Sector

As it goes in D.C., there are two major parties that influence the way things are run – the public and private sectors. The scale of public sector is the most defining feature of the D.C. economy and there is a perceived frictional dynamic between the public and private sector – yet the survey revealed that few differences exist between the two.

Employees in both sectors – 89 percent of public sector employees and 86 percent of private sector employees – overwhelmingly indicate they’d be open to working in the other. Yet with this openness what’s most notable is that both parties still feel confined to their sector, even while more than a third report that they don’t view their sector as superior.

  • Employees feel trapped: 49 percent of public sector employees feel confined to working in the public sector; 44 percent of private sector employees feel this way about the private sector.
  • Many don’t believe their sector is best: 39 percent of public sector employees don’t think the public sector is better than the private sector; 33 percent of private sector employees feel this way about the private sector.
  • Still, the grass isn’t any greener: 93 percent of private sector and 89 percent of public sector employees are satisfied at work; each indicated the industry they work in and the work they do as the top areas where they find satisfaction in their job.

Not surprisingly, public sector employees did rank job security (84%) as a benefit, higher than private sector employees, while the private sector indicated higher salary was of more value to them at 85 percent.

Above the Fray in the Beltway?

According to the survey, D.C. metro employees believe themselves to be insulated from the broader point of view that Washington, D.C. is plagued by tumultuousness and division. Instead, respondents view their industries as well respected with high ethical standards. In fact, employees ranked purpose and ethics above salary when discussing the most crucial factor driving trust in their organization.

  • Money doesn’t mean as much: D.C. metro employees rank the work that they do and an organization’s ethical standards as the top two factors that impact their trust. This differs from the national workforce, where employees ranked benefits and salary as the top factors that impact trust in their employer.
  • Serving a higher calling: 89 percent believe their industries help the greater good, 86 percent say their industries have high ethical standards, and 83 percent say their industries are well respected.

However, regardless of an organization’s mission, the overall tension and pressure-cooker environment in D.C. does band people together, with employees ranking colleagues and coworkers as their top reason for loyalty to their company (87%). This differs from employees at the national level, who rank employee benefits as their top reason for company loyalty (87%).

Gaps in Gender and Generation Abound

When looking at gender and generational cuts the survey underscored much of the larger conversation around these topics with women reporting disparities in salary and Boomer men citing the highest levels of job satisfaction.

  • Gender pay gap in Washington: Men are 27 percent more likely to say that their industry pays a high salary.
  • Networking gender gap: Men (86%) are 17 percent more likely to agree networking is essential in their industry, compared to women (69%).
  • Making it in the Beltway: Men (86%) were slightly more satisfied at work than women (79%). 87 percent of Boomers are satisfied with their work, compared to 79 percent of Gen-X respondents and 82 percent of Millennials who feel this way.

City Living

The survey confirmed something D.C. residents have known for a long time: Washington D.C. is a happy hour town where those inside the Beltway are constantly networking. Affordability was one of the lowest rated priorities for living in the city with only 50 percent of residents ranking it as a top reason to live in the city, while more indulgent activities take priority.


  • Out on the town: D.C. proper residents ranked food (90%) and after work activities (89%) as some of the top reasons they are willing to live in the city.
  • Suburbia: Virginians (83%) and Marylanders (85%) in the D.C. metro valued the affordability of their location as the top reason for living there. 58 percent of D.C. proper residents say it is affordable to work there.
  • One or the other: 42 percent of Virginia employees say are willing to work in Maryland, while 57 percent of Marylanders say they are willing to work in Virginia. D.C. employees are more open on where they would work, with over 70 percent saying they are willing to work in either state.

In addition, 73 percent of Millennials surveyed agreed that in their industry, it is more beneficial to work in the city, compared to 57 percent of Gen-X and 50 percent of Boomers.

Survey responses came from full and part time employees across all functions (e.g., C-suite, senior management, mid-level management, junior employees, and staff/administrative roles). The survey also provided data broken down by generation and gender. The full survey results and more information can be viewed at

“The purpose of this survey is to provide candidates, employers and recruiters with insights into a complex job market, while also gaining a greater understanding into what makes D.C. so unique” said Chris Vennitti. “The job market here is constantly changing and it’s critical to have a pulse on the undercurrent of trends and insights driving both employers and candidates to ensure we’re matching the right people with the right roles.”

HireStrategy commissioned a 20-minute online survey among 1,000 Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia based full-time and part-time US employees in white collar positions. The margin of error for this sample is +/-3.1at the 95% confidence level. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence, a full-service consumer research firm, the survey was fielded between August 8th,2017 and August 20th, 2017. As a member of The Insights Association in good standing, Edelman Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with Market Research Standards and Guidelines.

About HireStrategy

HireStrategy provides IT consulting, contract staffing services, direct hire search, and executive search solutions in the technology, finance & accounting, sales & marketing, human resources and administrative professions. HireStrategy has been ranked by The Washington Business Journal as the top staffing firm in the Washington DC region, and recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of Washington’s “Great Places to Work.”