When the topic of equal pay for women surfaces in a conversation, some may question if the issue still exists in today’s workplace. The answer is absolutely – yes. While it’s true that the wage gap between men and women who perform the same work has shrunk over the past two decades, pay parity for women in the 21st century is still an issue to be acknowledged and tackled here in San Antonio.
On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women hosted the Equal Pay SA summit, designed to elevate the conversation about wage disparity for women of all professions in San Antonio. More than 200 women attended the summit and their candid conversations led to the conclusion that closing the gender-based pay gap is critical for San Antonio to continue to be a location of choice for economic growth and quality of life for everyone.
Women across the nation have shattered glass ceilings by obtaining leadership roles, setting positive examples, and inspiring future generations of young ladies to take on the challenge. I am proud to serve on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women and have seen the great strides the City of San Antonio has made to level the playing field across the workforce.
In 2013, the City of San Antonio conducted a gender pay disparity study of nearly 10,000 full-time employees across 850 job titles and confirmed that there were no pay disparity issues. As of September 2016, 38% of appointed executives are females, up from 26% in 2005. The City of San Antonio has also added new benefits programs, which also level the playing field for both genders, such as the addition of six weeks of paid parental leave for either parent and an additional day of paid wellness and/or education leave, to give parents time to attend school functions, wellness appointments, and educational opportunities.
The City has set a great example for the community, but there is still work to be done in the private sector, where salaries and benefits are not subject to public information and women may feel uncomfortable or afraid to ask what their peers make in comparison.
According to the latest data supplied by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women nationally earn 80% of what men earn and Texas women closely follow those earnings figures. As the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, we felt that by pushing this conversation forward, we could assist in educating women and men on strategies to ensure equal pay and create a more equitable city.
Pay equity isn’t a political issue; it’s a social justice issue that affects women in every geographic and psychographic strata. At Equal Pay SA, attendees heard from a variety of panelists such as attorney Blakely Fernandez, CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams, Judge Laura Parker, and restaurateur Rebel Mariposa, who spoke candidly about their own personal experiences with wage disparity and solutions on spurring change for women.
Several attendees shared their personal struggles and fears about being paid fairly versus the need for employment.
“How do you insist on a higher pay for yourself when you need that job?” one participant asked. “If someone offers me a position and I argue for more money, they’ll give the job to someone else – My family needs me to have that job.”
Therein lies the rub. Securing that job may be important, but losing 20 cents of a dollar you earn is real money and adds up. It’s the money you use to pay your rent, to save for retirement, or to send your children to college. This shouldn’t be an issue, but it is, and we as women need to learn to better advocate for ourselves.
One of the goals for our commission was not only to raise awareness that there is a gender pay gap, but also to teach women to better advocate and negotiate for themselves. This involves understanding our choices, knowing what our skills are worth and having the confidence to articulate it. Following the panel discussion, a free, two-hour salary negotiation workshop took place, arming attendees with the strategy, tools, and role-playing to negotiate an equitable compensation package.
The standing room-only workshop comprised women of all demographics, ranging from recent college graduates to women in their 60s, united in their desire to for improvement and equity. At the end of the workshop, many of the participants shared with others in the room how the workshop assisted them “with knowing what to say about salary and that it was OK to say it.” The Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women will be bringing salary negotiation workshops into the community in the coming months.
Part of what struck me deeply was the common thread that women everywhere have been affected by the gender wage gap – if not personally, then indirectly through the experiences of their family or friends. The struggle exists not only with employers but with ourselves. Ask any woman, and nearly all will admit to deflecting and attributing our success to outside factors. We need to cultivate confidence in our worth, amp up positive messages to ourselves, and nourish and advocate for each other. We’re obligated as humans to help everyone up the ladder as we ascend, because climbing together we are stronger.
Members of the Mayor’s Commission of the Status of Women include: District 1 – Jeanette Honermann; District 2 – Keely Petty; District 3 – Jennifer Ramos; District 4 – Cristina Bazaldua; District 5 – Geraldine Garcia; District 6 – Melessa Rodriguez; District 7 – Katie Kinder DeBauche; District 8 – Linda-Lopez George; District 9 – Jane Fritz; District 10 – Naomi E. Miller; Mayoral – Andrea (Andi) Rodriguez; Office of the City Manager – Rebecca De La Garza and Jennifer Ramirez; Office of the Mayor- Jill De Young.