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Seattle's women are not worth less

Guest Opinion: Seattle has the worst gender pay gap of any major city in the U.S. It's time for city politicians to step up and commit to change.

In Seattle, women are worth less — 27 percent less, to be exact — than men. At least that’s what you’d think if you looked at payrolls. Outraged? You should be. 

Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Since passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the national gender pay gap has been narrowing, but it only budges about a half cent a year. And in Seattle, the needle barely creeps. Women in Seattle are paid 73 cents for every dollar that a man earns here — the worst pay gap of any metropolis in the country. This is not an insignificant number. That amounts to a yearly salary discrepancy of $16,346. Think what that much extra could mean to a single mom.

The National Partnership for Women & Families figures that, if paid the same as a man, a woman employed full time in Seattle could afford to pay for 89 more weeks of food, buy 3,000 more gallons of gas and pay for seven additional months of rent.

The Seattle wage gap is bad news for the 141,000 households in the region headed by women. It’s unsurprising and frustrating that 32,000 of those households are below the poverty line. 

For those of us of mature age, the distressing news that Seattle women are paid less than the guys does not come as a great surprise. It’s something we’ve lived with.

Over my working years, I have experienced the pay differentials. Although for most of my newspaper career I was lucky enough to work in a unionized industry — and let’s hear it for unions that understand women’s worth — there still were discrepancies.

When I worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) as a city columnist in the 1980s and 90s, I received a six-year reporter’s union wages — but not the extra pay typically paid to male columnists, especially those who wrote about sports and politics. 

Four of the P-I’s male columnists received considerably more take-home pay than I did. In fact, it was only when I left the P-I to work for the Seattle Times that I achieved parity with my male colleagues. And I achieved that goal only by making wage-equality a dealbreaking condition before I would consider leaving the newspaper that had given me my start as a columnist.

It’s difficult to bargain one's wages individually and it was probably even harder for those of us working in the newsroom in those pre-blogosphere days. At the time, most of us were so fond of the newsroom where women had only just achieved a seat, much less parity, that we’d have worked for next to nothing.

All that said, the important question to examine about the gender pay gap is “Why?” And why in progressive, forward-thinking Seattle would women receive less than in the other 50 major metropolitan areas in the country?

The local gap can’t all be about education because Seattle women have as good, if not better, educational background. It probably isn’t about a dearth of unions either, since Seattle has long been known as a good union town, although as we know, the high-tech industries have yet to embrace collective bargaining. And that may be a partial answer to the mystery of women’s lost wages. The region has a lot of tech workers and, at least locally, they’ve not been in the forefront of closing the gender gap.

Seattle’s boards of directors customarily have only included a token woman or two. Sure, there are women CEOs. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Boeing and the city’s high-flying aerospace industry seldom list women in executive ranks. The same is true of local engineering, architectural and financial industries. 

Conversely, in looking at the region’s large number of nonprofits, many of those have women in leadership roles. Sadly, although women have been a force in bettering life in the region, they have not commanded the higher salaries that are paid to male executives. There’s something about running a nonprofit that seems to require leaders who work for others, not for self. 


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Comments:

Posted Mon, May 6, 7:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, Puhlease!

Of course there is not a gender pay gap, and all academic research says so.

Please cite your sources, and note that the most likely one compares by industry, and does not differentiate by full time or more vs part time, but compares only total salary, without regard to hours worked.

Here is the acid test. If this were so, I would hire only women, save 23% on labor, and kick the competitions ass.

Not legal you say? No, but paying wimmin' less is not legal either. So if it is really happening, which it is Not, then I and any entrepreneur would do so.

But no one is.

So, take that debunked wage gap argument back to your cave. Tell ya what, there is a standing offer for same job, same output, etc, etc discriminatory pay proof of $20K, has been out there for at least 8 years, and no takers.

The Geezer has spaketh.

Geezer

Posted Tue, May 7, 9:37 p.m. Inappropriate

No kidding, Geezer.

You spaketh well.

Posted Tue, May 7, 5:03 a.m. Inappropriate

appreciate the article---maybe its that seattle "nice-ness". Don't make waves, don't ask for a raise....? People that do, get that tilted head, narrowed eyelid look, become labelled as difficult. I also find this city remarkably traditional in some ways - particularly expressed in the expectations for mothers (baby wearing? extended pta volunteer hours?).

cha

Posted Tue, May 7, 8:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Like the Republican coup in the state Senate and the anti-worker, anti-environmental bias reflected in the abysmally backward mass transit, here is yet another proof Seattle's claim to be a "progressive" city in a "progressive" state is a glaring Big Lie atop the most smugly self-righteous hypocrisy in U.S. municipal politics.

Posted Tue, May 7, 11:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, Jean, but this is obtuse: "In Seattle, women are worth less — 27 percent less, to be exact — than men."

It is not the person that is "worth" more or less to an employer; it is the job. You know darn well far more women than men choose lower-paying jobs.

Probably most women's pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who'd hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

Here's one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

“In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/03/26/bil10326.htm

A thousand laws won't close that gap.

In fact, no law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap - tinyurl.com/74cooen), not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the thousands of company mentors for women, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is another feel-good bill that turned into another do-nothing law (good intentions do not necessarily make things better; sometimes, the path to a worse condition is paved with good intentions).... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work.

That's because women's pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

See "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/will-the-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-help-women/

Posted Tue, May 7, 1:05 p.m. Inappropriate

This article illustrates the one-inch deep, mile wide thinking that sometimes plagues the politburo down at city hall. I know several women who are paid more than their husbands. Media-fueled perceptions, rather than substantiated data, appears to rule. (Men bring home more money than women on average, whatever the reason, therefore we must equalize the outcomes!) The reason Art Thiel and Steve Rudman made more money was because of their popularity, not to mention seniority. Should Laura Vescey have drawn the same pay just because she fell into the same category?

stan

Posted Tue, May 7, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Make a motion to the Council, Jean. Require all businesses operating within the City to pay women employees 127% their male counterparts' wages to make up for this injustice. While you're at it, require all businesses to hire women at a ration of 2:1. Don't let this injustice stand, Jean. Tons of non-profits and fully half the world's population will thank you.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, May 7, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

The only woman that would be worthless is Jean. Tripe as usual.

Djinn

Posted Tue, May 7, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

While it is a nice opportunity to go into reaction mode, an aggregate statistic does not identify where there are real issues.

Guaranteed paid maternity leave as is done in many countries is not something municipal governments can change, for example. Free day care adn preschool is not the table either, as far as I can see.

I suggest that THIS statistic at THIS point in Seattle's history has more to do with where the job growth is. What I see is mainly young men being hired into high tech and a LOT of H1B visa holders.

Encouraging more young women to persue STEM? Maybe, if high tech is willing to hire locally as opposed to importing the vast majority of their labor. Ensuring more union jobs with expanded apprenticeship programs? Something I do not see happening when our municipal growth seems to be one of high tech only.

Posted Wed, May 8, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Stan (and others) - go a little deeper. Saying there's not a wage gap because you know some women who make more than men is like saying you're not a homophobe because you know some gay people. WHY are Art Thiel and Stan Rudman more popular? Because society is conditioned to believe that sports personalities should be men. Why do they have seniority? because women were not hired to do those jobs until (relatively) recently. Why are women choosing to work fewer hours? Because they take care of kids and aging parents. Are there larger issues here to resolve? yes. Is government and/or laws the answer? Don't know.

MissRuby

Posted Wed, May 8, 12:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Don't let them shout you down, CM Godden! Some of these posters are ignoring the fact that Seattle is actually below average in how women are paid. We all know it's complicated. Lighting into the messenger is the easy part. Grownups need to come in and work out real solutions.

Your ideas have merit. I'll keep them in mind when I attend my LD's endorsement meeting.

Posted Thu, May 9, 11:52 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a poorly written article with no apparant research or documentation to back up its assertions. Scholarly articles and analysis from the US Department of Labor - just google and there are lots of available reports - indicate that life-choices, particulary career type and family decisions are associated with all but 5-7% of the gap between men's and women's pay. This gap is even less when considering certain portions of the workforce - such as federal workers, where the difference was only 1-2%. There is debate on why, even with addressing the statistical anomolies, there is still evidience of a smaller pay gap. Need to do your homework on this one Jane.

U.S. Department of Labor: An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women. [http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Gender Pay Gap in the Federal Workforce Narrows as Differences in Occupation, Education, and Experience Diminish. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09279.pdf[1]

Treker

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