This afternoon, the city council voted unanimously to tell the city's personnel and civil rights departments to hire three new full-time staffers to work on gender pay equity. The work these new strategic advisers will undertake was outlined by a task force; with today's vote, the council lifted a block on money that McGinn wrote into his 2014 budget.
Sounds kinda boring? Sure, I guess it is. But it's important. This all stems from two unsettling discoveries made about Seattle as a city and an employer last year.
First, a national study last spring declared Seattle's pay gap between men and women the worst of the 50 big cities they studied; women here make only 73 cents on the male dollar, the study found. In the face of that news, the city went and commissioned a study of its own pay to see if city employees experienced a pay gap between genders. Turns out they do: The city found that on average, its female employees make only 90 cents for every dollar men earn, and discovered that two-thirds of the city workforce is male, a finding that surprised many. McGinn convened a task force and set aside money for whatever the task force recommended. This spring, that group finally released its report, and a council committee chaired by Council Member Jean Godden has now put together an "action plan" on the issue, which the full council affirmed today.
According to that plan, the city is expected to tackle:
• The study and development of a paid parental leave policy, which the city doesn't currently have, along with the study and potential implementation of other "family friendly" policies. (Women still consistently shoulder more of the burden of child care and housework, meaning that workplace policies allowing things like flexible schedules or working from home can make women more inclined to apply for and keep jobs.)
• Performing a review and analysis of other city policies that either cause wage disparities or address them, and then implementing the best policies citywide.
• The creation of a women's leadership development program at the city, aimed at addressing a dearth of women in higher-paying managerial roles.
• Developing best practices in regard to gender equity to continue this work in the future.
• The launch of a regional initiative to begin work on this issue in the private sector, where there's a much higher pay gap.
There are few other things outlined in a council resolution, including adding an option for city employees to identify as transgender instead of male or female in data collection, better outreach and recruitment of underrepresented employees, better training of city employees, periodically surveying city employees, things like that. With all the benefits and training for these three new people, plus salaries, the dollar amount authorized today comes to $356,589.
Is this just a feel-good party? No, it's not. There's real work outlined here. But is it enough? Certainly not. The problem was first identified last spring; while it was tossed around as an election issue, it's taken this long to see anything concrete happen, and even this is just the authority for the city to hire some people who'll work on it. I guess we'll find out more when they hire them and as they work throughout the year. But a lot of this language is about further analysis and study and recommendation—there's still not a lot of action going on so far.