Jean Godden has an opinion piece in The Seattle Times on Seattle’s unacceptable wage gap by gender, the city taskforce to fix it, and what can be done now (h/t, Seattle Times Link, obvs).
In response to the city’s report, Mayor Mike McGinn announced the formation of a Gender Pay Task Force to “develop short-term and long-term strategies to address gender-pay inequities.” The task force would report this fall and develop a gender-justice initiative by January.
We know the causes of the pay gap are complex. We know that our male colleagues find the study conclusions as maddening as we do.
The task force should be bold and innovative in finding solutions both inside city government and beyond, such as ensuring that workforce-development training and apprenticeship programs — programs designed for family-wage jobs — are targeted at and utilized by women. My council colleagues and I should consider adopting elements of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has yet to pass Congress, to strengthen equal-pay laws.
We should encourage flextime policies that make it easier to balance family obligations with a career. Only about a third of employers allow some of their employees to work from home on a regular basis. We should expand access to child care so that women do not have to choose between higher-paying jobs and taking care of children.
I’m encouraged that Council Member Godden isn’t going to just wait around, and I hope that her Council colleagues will join her. It’s great that she has some solid proposals (I’m not thrilled about the bit making public employee pay easier to access, but in general, I think what she’s saying is good). That whatever the task force ultimately decides, the city can get started now.
I also want to echo her call for the task force to be bold. Sometimes task forces and other government agencies looking for solutions to problems will come up with a pre-compromised version in the hopes that it can get passed. It’s understandable, but Seattle deserves the best solutions presented for this problem, especially with the Seattle area being the worst of the top 50 metro areas for gender pay equality. It’s up to our elected officials to see how far they are willing to take any recommendations (and it’s up to the public to hold their feet to the fire). If the Council and the Mayor don’t like all of the recommendations, they don’t have to implement them, and the public can decide if they want members who will. But they ought to be given the best options, so we can judge them against that.
Of course, I hope that elected officials actually pass something, and that the recommendations of the task force don’t just get reported on and then sit on a shelf collecting dust.