April 7, 2017 is Equal Pay Day, and equal pay and the gender employment pay gap are hot topics nationally.
It’s well-documented that women earn only about 79 cents for each dollar men earn in identical jobs. Even when controlled for education, training, time out of the workplace for child-bearing and other factors that could affect compensation, studies show pay inequality still exists that cannot be explained by anything other than gender discrimination.
Against that societal backdrop, I was intrigued to find out women are 50 percent more likely than men to be employed in the public sector.
In fact, local governments are one of the three industries that together employ over half of all working women. This led me to look at our Village to see what we are doing right, and where there might be room for improvement. Our history of strong women in leadership positions began before incorporation with our first mayor, Evelyn Greer, so it seems natural that Pinecrest should have a leadership role in correcting institutional policies that perpetuate workplace inequality.
That’s why, after delving into the issue with key Village administrators, including Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano, Police Chief Samuel Ceballos, and Human Resources Director Mayra Sauleda, I sponsored an Equal Pay protection resolution at the March 7 Council meeting. It passed unanimously.
To be clear, the Village of Pinecrest was already worthy of commendation for its clear pay scales, well-developed job descriptions and diligent efforts to provide a discrimination-free workplace. This resolution is by no means negative. It spotlights our long-standing commitment to treat employees fairly and equally, but builds on it with new monitoring and reporting metrics to measure our progress. Statistical analysis showed there is still room for improvement to counter longstanding societal biases that that subtly influence most organizations.
More than three quarters (77 percent) of our full-time female employees earn less than $60,000 per year, compared to less than half (44 percent) of full-time male employees. There is a relatively simple explanation for this disparity: most of the Village’s highest paying jobs are in our police department, and the labor market for police work is still highly-gendered across the U.S. It’s noteworthy that our percentage of female sworn officers (22 percent) is almost three times higher than the national average of 8 percent for like-sized agencies. Chief Ceballos, father to three girls himself, clearly is providing a supportive environment to recruit and retain women on the force.
Pay inequality runs parallel to a broader phenomenon known as the “gender pay gap.” This describes factors such as hiring and promotion practices that privilege men over women, social norms that affect how we value certain work, and work-life policies by state and local government. One interesting example of how gender bias creeps in is how labeling can affect compensation: a “cleaning lady” is typically paid less than a “janitor” despite identical responsibilities
Our Village clerical support staff is overwhelmingly female, while the parks and recreation service aides are overwhelmingly male. As there is nothing inherently gendered about these jobs, we must recognize that our staff is significantly out of balance in these areas.
Fortunately, there is a lot within our control locally, and a lot we are already doing right. A recent review of staff promotions over the past year showed that male and female employees were promoted at roughly an equal rate. Our new resolution simply formalizes our existing goal to ensure equal pay and minimize the gender gap for our employees whenever possible. Staff will create a new position statement to ensure gender-neutral recruiting, hiring and promotion efforts. Importantly, ongoing documentation of equality efforts in all departments will now be part of the yearly Budget Summary.
As a woman and mother of three daughters myself, I was pleased to discover the praiseworthy evidence of the Village’s existing efforts, and even more at the overwhelmingly positive response to enhancement efforts by everyone involved in the discussion. I have already been asked to reach out to other local municipalities to share our research and work with them on similar policies and resolutions. Everyone wins when employees are all treated equally and fairly, and I’m proud to say Pinecrest is doing its part to support a just and fair society.