San Diego will become the first major city in the country to develop an evidence-based policy and action plan to achieve pay equity. According to a survey of the top 10 largest cities, many have adopted policies aimed at closing pay gaps, but none have commissioned a data-driven, publicly-available study to identify root causes for why inequities exist and how to eliminate them.
“As someone who pursued a career in medicine, a field historically hostile to women, I know this problem all too well,” said City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell. “That’s why ensuring equity in our city, and at City Hall, is a primary concern for me. I’m happy to see that the mayor is taking steps to address this issue.”
Investigating pay inequality is one of several actions the City of San Diego will implement following audit recommendations made by the independent City Auditor’s Office. The “Performance Audit of City Employee Pay Equity” found that on average female employees earn 83 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Wage gaps also exist across racial groups, with non-white City employees earning 80 percent of what white City employees earned in 2017. These figures are consistent with the national average of 81 percent and point to a larger societal problem.
Data suggests wage gaps have slightly improved in the City in recent years. Women hired between 2010 and 2017 make 91 percent of what men hired in those years earn and wages for minority groups improved from 80 percent to 82 percent during that same timeframe.
To help reverse this trend at the local level, Faulconer recently called for the creation of a committee charged with advising city leadership on strategies to develop women leaders and provide more opportunities for women in the workplace. The new Committee to Advance Women and Girls, which replaces the inactive Commission on the Status of Women, will usher in policy changes to advance women and help to address recommendations found in the audit report.
Audit recommendations include:
• Working collaboratively with the Human Resources and Personnel departments, the Civil Service Commission and the City Attorney’s Office to conduct a pay equity study every three years.
• Developing an action plan to mitigate unadjusted earning gaps and barriers that exist to promoting women and minorities to positions of leadership.
• Reviewing strategies to encourage increased promotional opportunities across all demographics, departments and positions.
• Continuing to promote programs and training that support diversity inclusion.
• Investigating and identifying the root causes of the existing earnings gap and developing a plan of action to mitigate the gaps identified.
• Working with an outside consultant to identify pay and promotional deficiencies and propose solutions to increase participation by underrepresented groups.
“I am committed to providing equitable pay and access to opportunities for all City employees,” said chief operating officer Kris Michell. “We will conduct regular pay equity studies to hold ourselves accountable for strengthening protections against wage discrimination and to ensure women and minorities at all levels are supported.”
These actions follow earlier steps taken by the City to foster gender equality in the workplace. San Diego is one of the first municipalities in California to provide four weeks paid parental leave for men and women, including benefits for both parents at the same time if they are each employed by the City. Other benefits include education and tuition reimbursement, new “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” training, alternative work schedules and breastfeeding accommodations.
The Performance Audit of City Employee Pay Equity will be presented to the City’s Audit Committee at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s not right to pay women and minorities less for the same work,” Faulconer said. “This study is an opportunity to examine the root causes of pay gaps and make institutional changes that will level the playing field so all employees are treated equally and receive fair compensation for the work they do.”