Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many workers across the country and here in San Francisco — especially for women.
Women comprise approximately half of the United States workforce. Many women are the sole or co-provider in half of all families across the country with children. On average, women receive more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men. But women, on average, still continue to earn considerably less than their male counterparts in almost every single occupation for which pay data is available.
According to the most recent United States Census data, women in San Francisco are paid 84 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women of color are paid even less. African American women are paid only 60 cents on the dollar, while Latina women are paid only 55 cents to each dollar.
Pay inequality between men and women is referred to as the gender wage gap. Despite the work that national and state representatives have done to right this injustice, there has been little movement in closing the gender wage gap. The gender wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year nationally since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress. The gender wage gap is a national embarrassment. Studies show that true equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add $513 billion to our national economy.
Here are some additional facts. If we keep at the current pace in closing the gender wage gap, we’ll get there by 2059 — that’s 42 years from now. For African American women, it amounts to 108 years. For Latina women, it will be 232 years until they finally realize equal pay. It is simply unacceptable.
As a father of a young woman, I want her to be afforded the same equal rights, opportunities, and pay as her two brothers. The sad reality is that if we fail to meaningfully work to close this gap, my daughter and other women will continue to have the deck stacked against them. I feel a special responsibility as her father to do everything in my power to close this gender wage gap.
FACTORS PERPETUATING THE GAP
There are many factors that contribute to the gender wage gap. One glaring factor is the problematic practice of employers using past salary history from job applicants to set an employee’s wage, which has been proven to contribute to the gender wage gap by further perpetuating wage inequalities across all occupations.
Studies have shown that when women are required to disclose past salary information as part of the application and salary negotiation process that they often end up at a significant disadvantage compared to their male counterparts. This is because of existing historical patterns of gender bias and discrimination that takes place in the workplace, causing women to continue earning less than their male counterparts and less than they would have earned if it was not for their gender.
Thankfully, it’s within our power locally to address this glaring issue. On Equal Pay Day (April 4), I introduced San Francisco’s first-ever “Pay Parity” law, co-sponsored by Supervisor Katy Tang, to help level the playing field for women in the workplace, so they can earn equal pay for equal work.
My pay parity policy has two main mandates that will help advance equal pay for women. First, my policy will ban all private employers in San Francisco from considering current or past salary in determining what salary to offer a job applicant. Second, my policy will prohibit all private employers in San Francisco from disclosing past salary and wage history without the applicant’s explicit authorization. The policy allows for job applicants to voluntarily disclose their past salary if an applicant wants to counter an offer made by an employer.
Before we introduced the policy, we consulted private employers to get their feedback. We are lucky in San Francisco to have employers who get it. I am thankful companies like Gap and Lyft, which are headquartered here in San Francisco, are fully supportive of the policy because of the benefits it can bring their workers.
I strongly believe my policy will enable fair salary and wage negotiations between applicants and employers while working to close the wage gap. Instead of relying on past information that might not be relevant, new job applicants will know that they will be paid based upon their experience and merits rather than just past wages.
We know we have to act locally, because President Trump and his Republican allies have already taken steps during his presidency through an executive order to revoke years of work and progress advancing equal pay for women. A day after Equal Pay Day — I wish I were joking — Trump revoked an Obama executive order that required companies with federal contracts to heed certain laws aimed at protecting parental leave, stopping discrimination against women and minorities, and ensuring equal pay for women and fair processes surrounding workplace sexual harassment allegation.
If the current federal administration and government want to take us backward, we have to continue to push forward.
Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work.