I see the gender wage gap as not just a pressing moral issue, but also a serious economic one. It perpetuates cyclical poverty, costs women hundreds of thousands of dollars, and keeps them from realizing their economic potential.
In NYC, a woman earns about 89 cents for every dollar a man makes. And while that’s better than other cities, it’s not equal. For women of color, the gap is even greater: On average, Asian women are paid 82 cents, black women are paid 66 cents, and Latina women are paid 56 cents.
Moreover, women don’t just experience discrimination because of their gender; they also face egregious penalties when they become moms. According to research from the National Women’s Law Center, the “motherhood penalty” means women are paid only 71 percent of what fathers earn in the same role.
In recent years, the city has helped to close the gender wage gap by enacting a salary history ban, increasing the minimum wage to $15, and awarding $11 billion in contracts to minority and women-owned businesses. This is to say nothing of universal pre-K, which saves families an average of $10,000 a year on child care.
But even with all these efforts, the tide will turn only when business leaders realize their ability to be changemakers. So, here’s where we start:
- CEOs must ensure compensation at their organization is equitable across the board. That’s why every year, the New York City Economic Development Corp. takes a holistic look to see who is promoted or who’s salary has been adjusted. This year, we went a step further and conducted a pay equity analysis to add another layer of scrutiny.
- Organizations should create better workplaces for women. Take the challenge many women have breastfeeding at work: A recent poll showed that close to half of moms have considered a job or career change because of their need to do so. One way EDC has addressed this is by designating wellness rooms on each floor of our office with hospital-grade breast pumps and other important amenities. At company offsites, we have a lactation pod on site to make the outing more accessible for all.
- We need government at all levels to do even more to directly address the gender wage gap. Recently women.nyc, an initiative at EDC, launched “Ask for More,” a program that will host free negotiations workshops for women. This is an important step on the road to equity.
As long as the gender wage gap persists, NYC won’t have a truly fair economy. Economic change doesn’t just mean reform. It also means dollars and cents.
James Patchett is president and chief executive of New York City Economic Development Corp.