After an April study released by the National Partnership for Women and Families revealed that women working in Seattle earn 73 cents for every dollar a man makes (even lower than the national statistic of 77 cents), Mayor Mike McGinn commissioned the City's Personnel Department to see if the roots of the problem extended as far as pay in the public sector.

As it turns out, they do.

At first glance, the data seems to favor female city employees, who out-earn men in 103 job classes, while men out-earn women in 95.

However, a closer look reveals what these sorts of studies always find (sorry, channeling Erica the C. is for Crank Barnett who’s on vacation this week): more women simply occupy the lower ranks of the organizational structure, where in fact they do earn more than men. For example, every female-dominated department, such as Seattle Parks (women $28.56 per hour, men: $27.62 per hour), has a lower overall wage than those in which men earn more money, such as Seattle City Light, where women faced an inequity of $4.57 per hour (women: $36.56, men: $41.13).

Essentially, women dominate the base of the hierarchical job pyramid, in a position similar to what nurses fill at hospitals. After all, there are always going to be more nurses than doctors, but which one really brings home the bacon? Women are being given full reign in lower-income jobs (where men are typically in lower positions), while those who aspire toward more lucrative careers face grossly disproportionate pay.

According to the summary, women make up more than one-third of the City's work force, but hardly any of them are in a high-paying position, though the report didn’t provide stats on that.

Additionally, the male-dominated pay gaps are larger, with an average difference of 4.49%, compared to 3.99% in female-dominated pay gaps. Overall, the rate of inequity among City of Seattle employees is about 91 female-earned cents to every male-earned dollar.

The study also took age into account as an additional factor that could influence pay inequity.

Personnel Director David Stewart, who oversaw the review, recommended that, in lieu of the newly gleaned data, the city consult with “internal and external experts” to help come up with the likely causes and potential solutions of this pay gap. “The report should be viewed as part of a series of steps and data analysis events the City is engaging in to improve the overall equity of pay for city employees,” Stewart wrote in his summary of the findings.

In turn, McGinn is assembling a Gender Equality in Pay Task Force to assist him in will be co-chaired by Office for Civil Rights Director Julie Nelson and YWCA Director Patricia Hayden. The task force's next step is to go over the data gather in the study and create a recommendation for immediate implementation that will reduce the government's gender pay inequity, which they will present to the mayor in September.

City Council member  and mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, has shined on this issue, giving an incisive answer to a surprise question about it at an early forum, hyping it in his cable TV ad, and holding a council forum on it.

McGinn appears to have stolen it from him today.


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