Gender Wage Gap: A Report Card

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It’s taking time, more time than anyone would like, but we’ve rolled up our sleeves and are laying the ground work necessary to address the region’s jumbo-sized gender wage gap.ReportCard

Last year, the National Partnership for Women and Families reported that the Seattle area has one of the widest wage gaps in the nation: on average, women make 73 cents for every dollar men earn.  City leaders, responding to a request from the Women’s Commission, studied our own gender wage gap and learned we’re not off the hook:  the City’s gender wage gap is 99 cents on the dollar and much worse in certain departments.

As chair of the Seattle City Council’s first committee to oversee the work to end gender inequity, I was proud to stand with Mayor Ed Murray last spring to announce a joint resolution outlining a plan to achieve wage parity in City government.  An early initiative of the Mayor’s, the plan incorporated many recommendations from the Gender Equity In PayTask Force. The resolution passed out of my committee and received unanimous backing from the Council.  Since its adoption Susan Coskey, Director of the Personnel Department (Personnel),and Patricia Lally, Director of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (OCR), have been implementing the action plan.  Some of their initial steps include the following:

  • Currently, the city does not have any provision for parental leave. New parents have few choices beyond unpaid time off, or using sick and vacation leaves.  Therefore, we’ve undertaken a study of best practices for paid parental leave, looking at what other cities, companies and government entities have done. The study, already underway, will be completed by the end of September and will help the city navigate next steps.


  • Coskey and Lally are cooperating with all city departments to provide a deeper analysis of city-wide gender data. A consulting firm has been retained and is conducting a study that is due for completion by the end of September.  In order to be effective in ending the wage gap we need the best data possible.


  • Personnel and OCR are developing  a program to provide underrepresented employees, especially women, leadership and career development training.  Our hope is that more women will eventually take on management and leadership roles in city government.


  • Coskey and Lally are also working with departments to develop more uniform approaches to performance management and discipline, ensuring more equitable treatment of employees.


  • Finally, Personnel and OCR are hiring a new staff person to manage a program for outreach and recruitment, encouraging qualified women to join the City’s workforce. This should help reduce gender imbalance at the City, which currently is two-thirds male.


While all of this is underway, I have been working with Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim to develop a plan to address gender inequities within the private sector and throughout the community and region. In preparing for this outreach, our staff  has been researching approaches in other cities. For example, in 2013, then Mayor Menino declared that Boston would be the first city in the country to close the gender wage gap. We’ve also examined steps San Francisco has taken, including creating a city department devoted to women’s issues.

Now that Seattle city government is striving to close its own wage gap, it is time to work on closing the regional wage gap by adopting strategies that have been successful in other cities.

I know we will not be alone in this work. It is my hope that we will be able to enlist private industry, the business community and non-profit agencies in the effort. We also need to work with other cities in our region and across the state to find ways to make our workplaces more equitable. Strengthening women’s wages will encourage equitable treatment, transform our community and enrich families.