(From left) Patti Radle, Siew Pang, Rosie Castro, John Agather, Shermeka Hudson, Jenee Margo Gonzales, and Adriana Cisneros are recognized at the ninth annual award ceremony honoring women leaders hosted by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
(From left) Patti Radle, Siew Pang, Rosie Castro, Shermeka Hudson, Jenee Margo Gonzales, and Adriana Cisneros are recognized at the ninth annual award ceremony honoring women leaders hosted by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Also pictured is John Agather. Credit: Shari Biediger / San Antonio Report

The gender wage gap and the “second shift” account for nearly $40 billion of unmeasured contributions to the gross domestic product (GDP) in San Antonio, a fact economists say is significantly shortchanging the city.

The findings came in a study completed by SABÉR Research Institute economists Steve Nivin and Belinda Román that examined the impact women have on San Antonio’s growing economy. It was released Wednesday at the ninth annual awards ceremony honoring women leaders hosted by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“Without women, the economy would just not work,” said Erika Prosper, board president of the Hispanic Chamber. “If you look at it, women are working an extra month more than their spouses every year in a ‘second shift’ at home. It’s exhausting and it’s real and it’s an acknowledgement of every woman here today.

“But the true obstacles are unrecognized and unmeasured.”

In San Antonio, women’s earnings are 84 percent of men’s, according to U.S. Census data.

But if those paychecks were made equal, San Antonio’s GDP – the value of all the goods and services produced here – would be 17.4 percent higher than currently stated, adding another $19 billion to the city’s $109 billion GDP, the study found.

As the lifeblood of economic measurements, GDP is an important measure of economic growth and prosperity, Román said. San Antonio currently ranks 35th in GDP among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, behind Nashville and before Las Vegas.

“But … there are shortcomings to the number, and so our endeavor was to start talking about them and how we could measure them,” Román said. “And the biggest shortcoming is, of course, the measurement of women’s activities.”

Not only do traditional GDP calculations fail to account for the gender wage gap, they also don’t measure “non-market household production,” the unpaid chores done at home. Mothers are still shouldering that load, according to a 2016 Pew Research survey, spending an average of 32 hours per week cooking, cleaning, and caring for children – compared to 18 hours that fathers put in.

The value of all that unpaid housework? The economists say it came to $20.8 billion in 2016. If added to San Antonio’s GDP, as Nivin and Román calculate it, the total GDP would grow to more than $149 billion.

Women’s contributions also have a multiplier effect. More women than men work in what’s considered a “super sector” of the economy, the education and health services industries, which contributes $104.8 billion to the total Texas GDP.

In 2017, women held nearly 1.3 million of the jobs in this sector, work that supports nearly 1.2 million more jobs in other industries of the state’s economy.

“Cha-ching power” is how Andi Rodriguez, government and community relations coordinator for the San Antonio Independent School District and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, described women’s contributions to the economy.

But women get hit with a “double whammy,” Román said. They take home a smaller paycheck than men, and then get charged more for certain necessities. The so-called “pink tax” means women and girls pay as much as 7 percent more than men for things like self-care products, clothing, dry cleaning services, toys, and vehicle repair.

“There’s certainly room for improvement,” Román said. She called for leaders to help women join the economy in bigger ways by supporting them with child care, ensuring equitable wages, and providing more resources for women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Nationwide, women are currently eight times more likely than men to work in occupations with poverty-level wages, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which advocates for paid sick-leave policies.

Last week, Working Texans for Paid Sick Time, a coalition of grassroots organizations from across the state, delivered a petition to City Hall requesting paid sick leave for San Antonio workers. Working Texans claims that 70 percent of low-wage workers do not have access to earned paid sick time to take care of themselves or their families when they are sick.

During the event, the Hispanic Chamber also recognized the specific contributions of these San Antonio women leaders “making a mark on the world,” as the luncheon was themed:

  • Legacy Award: Rosie Castro, community advocate
  • Community Voice: Patti Radle, SAISD board of trustees
  • Inspiration Award: Jenee Margo Gonzales, The Marianist Province of the United States
  • Service Award: Shermeka Hudson, Spurs Sports & Entertainment
  • Entrepreneur Award: Siew Pang, Sunshine Medical Uniforms
  • Innovation Award: Adriana Cisneros, ART LEGACY Texas

“In addition to the GDP, our value also extends to the lives we touch, the women we mentor, the change we stand up for, and the impact we make,” Rodriguez said of the honorees.

Each of the women used the event as a platform to express gratitude to their own mentors and heroes (and, as Jenee Margo Gonzales called them, “sheroes”), offer business advice to other women, and stimulate societal change.

“Find a great friend and a good banker,” said Siew Pang, a longtime small business owner in San Antonio and founder of Sunshine Medical Uniforms.

Patti Radle, SAISD board president, began by describing hope as her “superpower,” and called on the business community to support the SAISD board of trustees’ efforts to make the district a community for excellence, not mediocrity.

“Will you be there for our children?” she asked to rousing applause.

The full economic impact study presented Wednesday by Nivin and Román will be complete in about a month.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.