As a city, we preach women’s equality in the workplace, but we do not lead by example. It's time to put our money where our values are.
In 2016, my office released a report addressing the wage gap between men and women in New York City. We discovered that women earn approximately $5.8 billion less per year than their male counterparts. In order to combat this gender wage gap, I sponsored a law that makes it illegal for employers to ask about salary history during the hiring process because being underpaid once should not cause a lifetime of wage discrimination.
But my report also found that the wage gap in City government is three times larger than the wage gap in the private sector. And the gap in government is more complex than women being paid less than men for the same work. In a new analysis by my office, we revealed the City is simply not affording women the same opportunities as men and undervaluing women’s work.
Consider the representation of women in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). In the NYPD, there is essential parity for every title: female sergeants, officers, and detectives earn almost identical salaries to their male counterparts. Yet there is an overall 31% gender wage gap agency-wide, resulting from the fact that women tend to hold the lowest paying jobs within the NYPD, and the majority of the highest paying jobs are held by men.
In New York City, women earn approximately $5.8 billion less per year than their male counterparts.
For instance, 67% of school safety agents and 91% of police administrative aides — jobs that earn, on average, less than $45,000 per year — are women. In contrast, 90% of captains, 88% of lieutenants, and 84% of sergeants — jobs that earn an excess of $90,000 a year — are men.
These jobs require varying levels of training and experience, which dictate salary, but we cannot ignore the reality that women are significantly underrepresented at the top, and significantly overrepresented at the bottom.
It's clear that our City’s workforce is too segmented by gender. Agencies that are traditionally considered men’s work (construction, finance, uniformed services) are predominantly made up of men; agencies that are traditionally considered women’s work (childcare, education, social services) are predominantly made up of women. At the agencies where women tend to work, they are paid on average $10,000 less than men are paid at the agencies where they most tend to work. Compensating women less for work they traditionally perform suggests that women’s work is valued less than men’s work. Our City must do more to hire, train, promote, and retain more women in its workforce as well as appropriately value the work that is done by its female employees.
There is light at the end of the harrowingly long tunnel. Banning questions about salary history is a critical step, but not a panacea. We must take the next steps to get closer to the equality our City values and seeks to accomplish.
We need to regularly review agency payrolls, to ensure that women are paid equally for equal work, and that their jobs are not undervalued compared to jobs traditionally held by men.
We need to increase transparency for hiring and salary decisions by requiring city agencies to report annually on their employee demographics and compensation so that we can understand what the city workforce looks like and how they are compensated. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant, especially for when looking at systemic issues.
Lastly, we need to create a policy guide for all agencies and interested private entities to follow that supports flexibility for individuals with familial obligations to ensure they are not penalized in the workplace for being mothers, fathers, or caregivers. A mother should not have to worry that she will be overlooked for a future promotion because she has to take her child to a doctor’s appointment. We should be creating environments that support and reward both.