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City Enacts Gender Pay Equity Policy During Month Honoring Women

With Women's History Month here, one Utah city has gone beyond proclamations and niceties to ensure its female employees are paid on par with men.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski enacted a new policy March 1 that requires human resources staff to oversee pay equity and that prohibits hiring managers from asking job candidates about their pay history, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

With women job candidates likely to trail behind their male counterparts in salary history, using previous pay as the basis to determine the starting salary may reinforce the pay gap, says Julio Garcia, Salt Lake City's human resources director.

A recent audit finds that women in Salt Lake City government jobs make 93 cents for every dollar a man earns. But Utah is tied with Louisiana for states at the bottom when it comes to pay equity, with women in each state earning 70 cents for every dollar a man is paid, a 2016 survey from the National Women's Law Center finds.

Biskupski says pay disparity can have a huge economic impact on women and their families, amounting to billions of dollars lost every year for what they can spend on education, healthcare and housing. Last year she enacted a gender-neutral family leave policy to give employees six weeks of paid leave regardless of years on the job.

"Salt Lake City has a responsibility to show others in the state how promoting equity, fairness, and diversity benefits our community," Biskupski says in a statement.

Pittsburgh also took action at the start of Women's History Month by welcoming members for its first-ever Gender Equity Commission, PublicSource reports. The commission's mission is to "dismantle gender inequalities in our city," says anupama jain, the city's executive director. "It is not change that will happen tomorrow," jain says.

Pittsburgh has a pay gap where men earn more than women and white people, on average earn more than people of color, PublicSource reported last year. For example, women working for the City of Pittsburgh made 83 cents for every dollar a man earned in 2016.

Pittsburgh's gender equity commission will write bylaws and is working on a request for proposals for hiring an expert to prepare a "gender analysis," PublicSource reports. Based on the analysis, the commission will put together a five-year plan as well as offer recommendations on how city departments can improve gender equality.

"When you have generations and centuries of gender inequality, which is the reality...we've got decades to go until, as a country, we actually have gender parity," jain says.

Government agencies and companies hoping their women employees will not flee for better paying jobs may be in for a surprise. A new Randstad survey finds that 80% of women would go to another employer that had superior gender equality.

Factors that may drive women away include a lack of opportunities for leadership roles and mentorship programs, and gaps in pay. For 58% of the women surveyed, the top reason for gender inequality at their employer was the dearth of promotions to leadership positions. That compares to 34% of men who said the same.

The survey also finds that 53% of all employees cite unequal compensation as the top reason for gender inequality and 49% blame old biases and stereotypes as the second biggest reason.

"In order to move the needle in a meaningful way, it is the utmost responsibility of corporate leaders to invest in programs that will help retool and empower women for future success," says Audra Jenkins, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Randstad North America. "For companies that fail to establish an inclusive workplace, attracting and retaining quality talent will be a major challenge in the years ahead."

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