The chances of getting Congress to make pay inequity between the genders a thing of the past is close to zero right now. Since the Federal government isn’t going to act, Thomas M. Menino, the mayor of Boston, MA has taken up the challenge. In a Boston Globe article on October 31st, Mayor Mernino is planning to announce this week that Boston has a plan to “eliminate wage disparities between men and women”.
Maybe Local’s The Answer
“Menino plans to announce this ambitious initiative on Thursday, when he rolls out an initiative signed by 38 employers that have committed to ending pay disparities. Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men make. Local governments are taking charge and making a difference on big issues. Once upon a time we could look at a geographical region (the east coast or the south) as a block of support for issues, but these days, it’s almost city by city – in some cases block by block, to get real change going. And Mayor Mernio isn’t just making a declaration; he has businesses signed up to participate. They have signed on the bottom line. Why would businesses sign up for this? It’s going to cost more money and I’m sure there is a Congressman out there somewhere who will call this initiative a “Job Killer”. The why: it’s good business.
According to the Boston Globe article, Boston has the best-educated women of any major city in the US and the goal is to keep them in the city. “Eliminating the wage gap is not just about equality, the initiative supporters say, it’s an economic imperative. In a city driven by knowledge and innovation, with a greater share of young women than any other city, equal pay will help retain and attract the best and brightest women to the Boston area and its companies.”
Boston is starting out with a smaller gap than the country in general. Women in Boston make an average of 83 cents to the dollar — “a difference of almost $10,000 a year, or about $400,000 over a career, according to a report by the city’s newly formed Women’s Workforce Council.” The largest employer in the Boston area is Partners Healthcare and two-thirds of their workforce is women. Many of the positions are in management or nursing and the women earn 13.5% more than their male counterparts. They are part of the initiative because, as CEO Gary Gottlieb says, “It’s in our self-interest because it creates larger pools of highly skilled and well-paid women.”
That’s a message that will be shared across the city as Mayor Mernio’s initiative kicks off on Thursday. He has made has made “working women a cornerstone of his agenda in his last year in office, creating initiatives for small business owners, girls and technology, and wage negotiation. By the end of the year, he hopes to have at least 50 companies dedicated to learning the causes of the wage gap, putting measures in place to equalize pay, and participating in a biennial review of their progress.”
Eventually, the Federal Government Will Have to Respond
We should look closely at this local initiative as it rolls out in Boston. As with healthcare, Massachusetts is not afraid to take a new look at what they believe are critical issues for their citizens. They have used a progressive forward looking model to form local solutions, much as San Francisco did a decade ago when dealing with domestic partners. Maybe a solution to the pay equity problem is convincing local governments to foster programs that address the problem, not trying to get the Federal government to lead the way. Ultimately, the Federal government will have to pass laws and regulations to bring all the local programs together, but maybe instead of waiting for that to happen, we should concentrate on our cities.
I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and besides the obvious reluctance of Texas to be progressive on any issues, much less gender pay inequity, I do believe that when businesses find that 51% of the workforce would rather work somewhere else because they can make significantly more money, it may change the conversation. Congressmen (and I do mean men) can filibuster for days but businesses will have to compete. It will be time for change and I don’t think Texas wants to be last on this issue.
What is your city doing to challenge the business community about gender pay inequity? Share your story. Tweet us, post on our Facebook, or upload your story on Youtube. #LeaveYourLegacy.
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