The City of San Antonio will begin work this year on developing economic programs and policies to address gender pay disparities in the city.

City Council’s Governance Committee gave a unanimous thumbs-up on Thursday to move forward with a review of how the City pays its own employees broken down by job description, experience, gender, race, and age. It also will look at how the nonprofit organizations that the city contracts to perform social wellness services and other companies pay their employees, officials said.

The Economic Development Department (EDD) and the Department of Human Services will work with nonprofits, delegate agencies, and business stakeholder groups to find practices to close the gender gap.

The results of the City’s research is slated for City Council review in March next year.

The study was initiated by a council consideration request filed by Councilwomen Shirley Gonzales (D5) and Rebecca Viagran (D3). Fellow Councilwomen Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), Adriana Rocha-Garcia (D4), and Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6) signed on their support. The 2018-2020 Council is the first to have a female majority as a result of an election.

“If we’re going to do something [about pay inequality] we need to start with the City – we need to lead by example,” Viagran said.

Former City Manager Sheryl Sculley launched a number of programs, including a mentorship program, to support female leadership during her 13-year tenure, Viagran noted.

“Women without high school diplomas, with bachelor’s degrees, and with graduate or professional degrees earn 64 cents, 81 cents, and 72 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by men,” said Alejandra Lopez, interim director of the EDD.

That information came from a report on the status of women that showed how women fared in terms of health, education, work, housing, civic engagement, violence, and more.

One of the report authors, journalist and researcher Lily Casura, has been hired by YWCA San Antonio as its director of equity to inform and launch an awareness campaign, a business council, and a handbook for businesses to support wage equity in San Antonio.

This work can help combat domestic violence, Casura said, which was also identified as a priority to address in the report.

“When women are paid better, they have more options – including achieving personal safety, practicing self-care, [and] accessing different options that they don’t have when they’re underpaid,” she said. The campaign is funded by a five-year grant from United Way of Bexar County and San Antonio.

Diane Sanchez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said wage disparity is one element of the conversation; another is the type of work women do.

“[There is a] need for women to be in management positions and leadership positions in the city and the private sector as well,” Sanchez said. That includes female representation on public and private boards.

If women’s paychecks were made equal, there would be another $19 billion added to the city’s 2016 gross domestic product, according to a SABÉR Research Institute study funded in part by the Hispanic Chamber. Women contributed another $20 billion in unpaid “housework.”

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...