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City of Seattle

July 16, 11:31 AM click here to comment > 7

Launching a Gender Justice Initiative

Though much progress has been made toward gender justice since women fought for the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, we have a lot of work ahead of us on the road to true gender equity. A recent report from the National Partnership for Women and Families (NWPF) ranked Seattle as having the widest gender wage gap among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. I’ve written here in the past about this report, which found that women in the Seattle area are paid 73 cents on the dollar compared to men, amounting to an average yearly gap of $16,346 between men and women who work full time.

In response to the NWPF report, I directed the City Personnel Department to conduct a review of the City’s salary structure to determine if these disparities were present among City of Seattle workers as well. Not surprisingly, our review found that the City of Seattle does indeed have gender disparities in pay. Men employed by the City of Seattle make approximate 9.5% more than women on average, and today we are announcing a Gender Justice Initiative designed to change that.

The first step is to convene a Gender Equity in Pay Task Force, led by Office for Civil Rights Director Julie Nelson and Patricia Hayden, YWCA Director of Specialized and Integrated Services, made up of community experts who will use their expertise to help us come up with creative solutions to this complex problem.

The Gender Equity in Pay Task Force will:

  • Review an in-depth analysis of the City’s data to gain a better understanding of specific opportunities and challenges, including a focus on positions with discretionary pay and those departments with the largest differentials between the number of male and female employees and greatest pay differentials.
  • Develop recruitment and retention strategies to increase the number of female employees at the City of Seattle, particularly in departments that currently employ significantly more men than women.
  • Develop strategies to increase City contracting and purchasing with WBEs.
  • Develop policy proposals that modify existing operating procedures to address implicit bias and/or institutionalized sexism, other forms of gender-based discrimination and institutionalized racism that inadvertently create gender-based inequities, both in employment and contracting.
  • Develop programmatic proposals that provide tools and resources for individual women that help to address gender-based pay gaps.

Task Force timeline

Gender inequity in pay is an important element of a Gender Justice Initiative, but is of course not the only form of gender-based discrimination. Our vision of gender equity must also include other inequities, such as access to specific employment categories, education, safety, and health. In early 2014, after we have made steps to address our internal pay disparities, we will launch a broader Gender Justice Initiative, focusing on these issues citywide. Based on the findings of the Task Force, topics will be identified for inclusion in the initiative that may encompass family friendly work places, support for broad gender justice goals, sharing best practices across institutions, and outreach and engagement for inclusivity in our approach to resolving gender justice issues.

By looking at our own employment practices, we can learn a lot about how to address these issues at a broader level. We will draw on the expertise of private sector employers and advocates for gender justice through the Task Force, and collaborate with community groups and organizations to come up with creative solutions. By working together on this challenging issue we can make progress toward a more justice society for all. Stay tuned on our blog for updates on our progress and opportunities to get involved.

See also:

Full report

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4

Appendix 5

Appendix 5B

Transmittal memo

Task force members

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from Shawn Ferris
Time July 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm

OK…I can save them a wole lotta time on coming up with ‘creative solutions” to the pay inequity among city of Seattle workers:
1. Look at the list of the same jobs done by men and women.
2. Look at the disparity in pay.
3. Raise the pay of the women to be equal with the men. NOW.
4. Done!
5. Too simple?….well then lower the mens’ pay to the same rate as the women. There that’s creative!

Comment from Mary Davis
Time July 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

Need to compare elements of jobs and not just pay rates by job title. The 1973 comparable worth study for WA State used a point system to compare jobs across job categories. Some jobs are traditionally filled by a particular gender and the jobs that men typically were performing were valued more highly than jobs that women typically did. There was an undervaluing of work done predominately by women vs. that of men.

Comment from Wally
Time July 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Shawn is mostly correct. For the same job titles, give women a 9.3% raise. For similar jobs, its another story. For different job titles, its apples and oranges and the difference in pay means nothing.

Comment from Marie
Time July 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

For step progression positions, the vast majority of physicians in the city, the one and only reason for differences in average pay is longevity. Each city employee’s pay increases automatically based on time worked until they reached the top step in about five years. The only relevant factor here is why there are more men in some positions than women. It could be because women are not trained and therefore not available. Or it could be because there is biased hiring. It seems to me that in the short term making sure there is not biased hiring is the only thing that can be done. Over the longer term it relates to women getting trained in math and science and engineering which is a big issue that the city could contribute to.

Comment from Joan
Time July 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Mary Davis has hit one of the nails on the head! Do a comparable worth study or use the state study and bring it up to date. Personnel analysts compare “apples and oranges” all the time, Wally –– but then they only use labor market comparisons of similarly predominantly male or female job classifications, so they lose the significance of the importance, complexity, and responsibility of many predominantly female occupations, which we should value and pay for accordingly! All Canadian provinces (except for some weird reason, British Columbia, Washington’s neighbor!) have pay equity (same as comparable worth) laws providing for challenging pay rates that are based (at least seemingly) on the gender predominant among the workers rather than on the complexity and importance of the jobs. Minnesota has used comparable worth / pay equity methods for salary checking for all levels of public/government employment for many years, with periodic reviews and reporting required by state law.. Various other states, counties, cities, school districts, etc. have done projects over the past 40 years in other parts of the U.S. It definitely means a lot to the employees in predominantly female occupations (and their families) –– as well as male co-workers in those jobs! And it costs very little out of a government entity’s overall budget to pay appropriately for “women’s work” jobs!

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