By Carrie Wolfson*
The NYC Comptroller, John Liu, timed the release of his report Snapshot: Gender Equity in the New York City Municipal Workforce  to coincide with Equal Pay Day . The Comptroller, along with many other pay equity experts, gathered on Tuesday, April 12th to discuss the report’s findings and the status of pay equity within NYC.
The Comptroller reported that in NYC municipal employment, women still earn only 83 cents on the dollar earned by men. In the private sector, women earn 72 cents. While the City is performing better than the private sector on this measure of pay equity, a 17% pay gap is surprising in a progressive city with strong civil service rules that should eliminate inequalities. What I found most staggering is the City’s performance with regard to its compensation paid to women with children. Controlling for many of the factors that affect pay, such as education and experience, women with children receive 24% less pay than men with children in NYC. This gap is larger than in the private sector where it is 18%.
After the Comptroller’s speech, NYC Council Members Julissa Ferreras , Letitia James  and Melissa Mark-Viverito  highlighted the implications of the pay gap. Council Member Ferreras made the important point that equal pay is not just about treating women fairly, it’s about saving lives. Since women are paid less, they are less able to achieve economic security independently. If a woman is dependent on an abusive partner for shelter and food, leaving can become even more difficult, especially when there are children to support. Council Member James raised the issue of the feminization of poverty, a dynamic for which pay inequities are culpable. Council Member Mark-Viverito reminded the audience that it is “pathetic” that we are still involved in the same conversation nearly half a century after the passage of the Equal Pay Act (EPA).
The pervasiveness of the wage gap demonstrates that the EPA was not sufficient to achieve pay equity. NYC’s disappointing performance compared to the private sector in its pay to women employees with children suggests that the City’s work rules are unfair. As the employer to hundreds of thousands of employees, it is time for NYC to rethink its policies.
While the findings of the Comptroller’s report are discouraging, it’s heartening that someone of Comptroller Liu’s stature seems committed to eradicating the NYC pay gap. However, statistics are only the first step. Now that we know women in the NYC municipal workforce are not receiving equal compensation, efforts need to be made to change the dynamics holding them back. Some particularly useful questions the Comptroller recommended for consideration are, “How do City policies and work rules limit the potential of women and working families?” and “What can the City do to change historic patterns of gender segregation?”
*Carrie Wolfson is a Research and Programs Intern with the National Council for Research on Women. She currently attends NYU Wagner, where she is President of the Wagner Women’s Caucus.
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