It’s Our Time To End Gender Inequities

During this campaign, the gender wage gap has been a frequent topic of conversation. Tackling the gender wage gap is important because it affects the livelihood of 50% of our City’s population. However, something crucial is missing from this conversation. When discussing the gender wage gap, we largely focus on how pay disparity affects women in professional positions. What we don’t discuss, is how much more severe the gender wage gap is for women of color and women working in minimum-wage jobs.

In Seattle, the average man makes $60,881 per year versus $44,535 for the average woman. That means women in our city are earning about 73 cents on the dollar to men. Shocking, right? For the 141,949 households headed by women in our city, that’s a difference of 118 weeks of food, 8 months of mortgage payments or 16 months of rent. Except it gets worse. Nationally, black women earn 64 cents on the dollar and Latina women earn 55 cents on the dollar to the average man. How can this be an acceptable standard in our city and nation? It can’t. I’m ready to lead the fight to end gender inequity.

How Seattle Can Make The Change:

If elected to Seattle City Council, I plan to take the gender wage gap head on for all women of all incomes. I believe that these six essential steps will help us close the gender wage gap:

Enforce our higher minimum wage. We must ensure that our promise of a living wage for women working in low-wage jobs is carried out through robust enforcement.  I was proud to play a role in setting up Seattle’s new Office of Labor Standards as legal counsel to Mayor Ed Murray. The city must continue to appropriately fund this new office as the need for enforcement grows.  Penalties and remedies must be strong enough to deter wage theft and retaliation.  If elected, I will be the only sitting councilmember with experience holding scofflaw employers accountable for violating labor laws.  And I’m the only candidate in my race endorsed by labor.   

Oppose a tipped minimum wage. Nearly two thirds of tipped workers in our country are women and 46% of tipped workers have to supplement their income with government assistance. A tipped minimum wage leaves too much to chance, chaining women to a cycle of poverty. 

Support a fair work week. Much of the minimum-wage work force consists of women. When we allow employers to use unpredictable scheduling with little or no notice, it’s difficult for working parents to arrange safe and reliable childcare. We must not force parents to choose between their children and their ability to work. 

Support pay transparency. It’s essential that women have access to pay data that shines a light on whether a male counterpart is paid more for equal work.  We must move away from a model in which it is socially acceptable to keep women in the dark and disempowered. Pay data transparency will empower women to fight for their worth and get the pay, promotions and bonuses they deserve.

Invest in affordable childcare and early learning. Not all working-women are moms but access to affordable childcare should be a basic benefit for a Seattle employee. The city has an obligation to play an active role in helping parents or parents-to-be access childcare while ensuring that those childcare providers are earning a living wage. Other cities have done this successfully with subsidy programs. At home, lawmakers must take the lead on ensuring that underserved zip codes have in-district access to childcare if we are serious about providing low-income, working moms a shot at economic opportunity.

Paid parental leave. While City employees now have four weeks of paid parental leave (which is still at least 8 weeks less than every other first world nation), we must remember that there are many working parents outside of City Hall receiving little or no paid parental leave. A paid parental leave policy for all companies doing business in Seattle would go a long way to leveling the playing field for low-wage and professional women alike.

Nationally, Seattle is looked to as a progressive beacon. As we did with our historic $15 minimum wage, we can and should lead the movement to ending the gender wage gap. Our country has made the promise of equal opportunity yet we are the only nation that does not provide a single-day of paid parental leave. It’s time for Seattle to stand up and make gender equity a reality.

Paid for by Elect Lorena | PO Box 23011, Seattle, WA 98102