A woman makes $11,614 less than a man, on average, at Spokane City Hall. Females represent nearly half the city’s population, but they hold just a quarter of positions in city government. About 90 percent of clerical and secretarial positions at the city are held by women.
These imbalances have drawn the latest promise for change from the Spokane City Council.
Councilwomen Karen Stratton, Candace Mumm and Amber Waldref – the three women on the seven-member council – announced Wednesday that they would lead an effort to “close the gap” at City Hall. Stratton, who is leading the effort, said the council’s first step is to convene a task force to determine why the pay gap exists at the city, and how to change it.
The pay inequity at City Hall, which also extends to racial disparities, was described by council members as a problem within the system of recruitment and advancement in government. Stratton added that she believes there is gender bias among city employees that has stymied efforts at equality.
Councilman Mike Fagan, who watched the news conference from a distance, said he was not supportive of the effort. Women should be paid as well as men, Fagan said, but added, “One would have already thought they were.”
Fagan said certain jobs at the city, such as in the police and fire departments, are better suited for men.
“Men and women are not equal,” he said. “Biologically, there are differences between men and women. Is a 150-pound woman (police officer) going to be able to control a 250-pound, out-of-control so-and-so?”
Mumm rejected Fagan’s example.
“Women have proven themselves in every occupation,” she said. “I am amazed we are still having this debate in 2015.”
Mayor David Condon also differed with Fagan, saying that a broken recruitment system has led to the lopsided nature of the fire department, where 95 percent of positions are held by men.
“There’s a key recruiting issue: having women out there talking to women that this is a viable field for them,” he said.
Condon said the composition of his Cabinet shows that he supports efforts to reduce gender pay inequity at the city. Condon appointed women to two of the more influential, and better paid, positions in government: city administrator and city attorney.
“We need a workforce that represents the city of Spokane,” he said. “We have work to do, but we’ve made some definite progress.”
Women make up 26 percent of the city’s workforce, compared to 44 percent of the federal government’s employees. Of the city’s high-earners making six figures or more, 12 percent are women.
Rachel Giachetti, an accounting clerk at the city, said her five years in the Navy gave her perspective on equality.
“It’s worse here in this building than it is in the military,” said Giachetti, who has worked at the city since 2008. “You have to fight, you have to dig and you have to climb. It shouldn’t be like that.”
The task force will issue its recommendations by the end of the year, and its members will include “some men,” Stratton said.
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