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Gender equity in city employment requires long-term effort

Guest Opinion: Two City Council members say that digging into the numbers show a problem deeply embedded in city government personnel practices.
Studying city employment data shows how individual departments break down on the numbers of men and women and their average pay. The data doesn't take into account comparability of pay and positions. (Click image to enlarge.)

Studying city employment data shows how individual departments break down on the numbers of men and women and their average pay. The data doesn't take into account comparability of pay and positions. (Click image to enlarge.)

Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess

Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess Seattle City Council

Jean Godden

Jean Godden Seattle City Council

The Mayor’s Office released a study of gender pay equity in July showing that in city employment, men, on average, are paid 9.5 percent more than women and constitute nearly two-thirds of the workforce.

Frankly, those results are dismal, and are as disturbing as the recent news that Seattle ranks dead last among the country’s largest 50 major metropolitan areas for gender pay equity.

We recently took a closer look at the raw data of gender and salaries in and among city departments, and the resulting analysis was quite thought-provoking . Charts illustrate that no one or two solutions can achieve pay equity in the city workforce.

While some departments have commendable records on pay equity — Transportation, Finance, Seattle Public Utilities, the Library and Neighborhoods — others are pretty shameful. It’s particularly daunting to discover that the police, law and personnel departments, the Municipal Court and the Mayor’s Office have the lowest female-to-male employee salary ratio among major departments.

Solving the gender pay gap requires innovation and flexibility — departments need to develop specific actions to fit their particular needs. But there are some citywide changes that will help across departments. This initial look at the data points to two, in particular.

First, the city needs to place more women into positions of leadership. Among the most noteworthy findings is that only one of the top 20 highest paid city employees is a woman, with no women in the top ten.

Second, the analysis shows women make up the smallest percentage of the city workforce from age 36 to age 45. We need to explore more family-friendly policies. Many forward-thinking employers (Starbucks and Amazon come to mind) have on-site childcare. City government does not offer this service. Nor does Seattle have any provision for paid parental leave, and offers only 90 days of unpaid Family and Medical Leave. Anecdotally, we know of city employees who have had to piece together different types of paid leave (vacation, their own sick leave, borrowed sick leave from colleagues) to take minimal paid parental leave. More flextime scheduling or job sharing options might also help attract and retain more women.

Mayor Mike McGinn appointed a Gender Equity in Pay Taskforce to take an in-depth look at solving the City’s pay gap, including options to strengthen the City’s family friendly policies. Councilmember Godden has been appointed to serve on the taskforce and is committed to ensuring that the group is not just window dressing during an election year. The solutions will be bold, sustainable and result in true change.

The ongoing gender pay gap and the example set by the city government itself does not do Seattle proud. With an improved economy, and the potential of more job opportunities opening at the city, now is the time to change our policies and practices to attract and retain more women. Seattle, of all cities, can and should do better.

Jean Godden and Tim Burgess are members of the Seattle City Council. Godden serves on the City’s Gender Equity in Pay Taskforce and Burgess chairs the Council committee that provides oversight of the City labor and personnel issues.

Jean Godden is a member of the Seattle City Council and chair of its Libraries, Utilities, and Center Committee. She was a columnist and chronicler of Seattle life for many years at both Seattle daily newspapers. She has endorsed state Sen. Ed Murray for mayor. You can follow her on Twitter: @jean_godden.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Sep 17, 6:37 a.m. Inappropriate

I can agree with onsite benefits like daycare. However, companies subsidize these programs since they are much more expensive than your "local" daycare. When a company like Starbucks subsidizes a benefit like this, the cost of your drink goes up, they pass on the cost.

How will Seattle pass on the cost?

Posted Tue, Sep 17, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

This deeply ideological view is severely short-sighted.

For starters, the writers miss the fact that to the degree they concern themselves with fully integrating women in the world of work, they ignore the full integration of men into the world of children. Ignoring this has serious implications that are detailed in Warren Farrell's book "Father and Child Reunion."

As for the gender wage gap:

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 (See also http://www.openmarket.org/2013/06/19/president-repeats-false-equal-pay-statistic-claiming-women-earn-77-percent-of-what-men-do/)

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:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to, or is wrongly dismissed as irrelevant by, feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands' incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

-accept low wages
-refuse overtime and promotions
-choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do (The most popular job for American women as of 2010 is still secretary/administrative assistant, which has been a top ten job for women for the last 50 years. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/gender-wage-gap_n_3424084.html)
-take more unpaid days off
-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)
-work fewer hours than their male counterparts, or work less than full-time instead of full-time (as in the above example regarding physicians)

Any one of these job choices lowers women's median pay relative to men's. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay.

Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

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

Posted Tue, Sep 17, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Gender disparity? Rather, City employee disparity. On looking at the actual data, we see legislative assistants (presumably to council members) at $115,000 plus.
The disparity is with the rest of the public and even other public employees, such as in state government. The City of Seattle has for many years overpaid its employees and its elected officials cloud the disparity with a gender disparity camouflage.
Shame on you, Burgess and Godden, for being such shills for unreasonable salaries when what the City really needs is more funds for police and public safety, for addressing mental health issues and for helping businesses have a stable city in which to hire and attract the legions of out of state and in-state people who are afraid to travel here.

Posted Wed, Sep 18, 5:16 p.m. Inappropriate

What about LGBTQ people of color wage gap? I bet it would be rather surprising if we had data of wage disparity of LGBTQ people of color. I can't think of anyone at the city in a leadership or management role that is LGBTQ and of color...

The city doesn't track gender or sexual orientation in the voluntary EEO demographic section of the hiring process outside of male or female, race and ethnicity. It would be great and a progressive step forward to also ask (voluntarily, of course) gender (beyond the binary of male/female to Male, Female, Transgender, Non-Gender, Other) and sexual orientation.

Posted Wed, Sep 18, 10:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Extra double protection for a combination of two protected classes? Good grief.

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