The difference in pay between men and women on Phoenix’s payroll is shrinking and is about half the size of the national average, city leaders said Wednesday.

This week marked Equal Pay Day — the day that symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work to earn as much as a man. That occurred Tuesday. Women who work full-time in the United States take home about 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the U.S. Census.

Among Phoenix’s workforce of 12,500, the gap is significantly smaller: including all occupations, women who work for the city earn about 91.1 cents for every dollar a male earns. The gap is equivalent to about $5,842 less per year.

The city also has hired more women for top management roles. Its four largest departments — police, fire, parks and water services — are led by women.

Similarly, the City Council has grown diverse in gender. In 2013, there was one woman on the council, Councilwoman Thelda Williams; today four of the city’s nine council seats are held by women: Williams, Kate Gallego, Laura Pastor and recently-elected Debra Stark.

Gallego praised the city’s progress this week, saying, “The nexus to equal pay is that organizations with women in leadership positions often have smaller pay gaps.”

She said while the city has done a good job providing “equal pay for equal work” the pay gap between male and female city workers is largely a result of occupation. Male-dominated fields, like police and fire, tend to pay higher salaries.

Gallego said having female department leaders will help attract more women to those areas, and the city has made changes to its public-safety recruiting efforts in hopes of hiring more women.

Mayor Greg Stanton said while the city’s wage gap is smaller than the national average, there is still work to do because “91 percent is good, but not good enough.”

The gender-pay gap among city workers has shrunk by just under $100 since 2015, when the city passed an equal pay ordinance championed by Gallego. That year, women earned $60,685 per year in base salary on average, compared with $66,622 for men. Today, female workers earn $59,944, compared with $65,785 for men.

Cindy Bezaury, the city’s acting human resources director, said the average salary of both female and male workers fell in the last two years largely because the city has seen a wave of older, high-paid workers reach retirement age.

But, Bezaury said, the gender-pay gap also is shrinking for that reason as retirements allow younger employees, including women, to advance.

Another key reason the city likely has a smaller pay gap is due to its step-pay system, she said. Almost every city worker is on a salary ladder and, if they pass a performance evaluation, their raises or bonuses are automatic.

That means men and women hired for the same position at the same time likely will earn equivalent salaries throughout their careers.

“It’s gender equal,” Bezaury said. “It takes a lot of the subjectivity out of how genders move through the pay steps.”

Phoenix also has taken measures to combat wage inequity at private-sector workplaces in the city.

In 2015, the city passed an ordinance that mirrors federal laws requiring equal pay for equal work. The city also works with non-profit groups to educate women about how to negotiate for higher salaries. Gallego, who championed the ordinance, said women often are less likely to ask for a raise.

Regina Edwards is CEO of the YWCA of metro Phoenix, a group that advocates for equal pay in the state among other causes. She said the city’s efforts, particularly the ascension of women to senior roles, encourage women throughout the city to seek higher-paying positions.

“If I see someone like me in a role that I am aspiring to, I am much more apt to continue on that trajectory,” Edwards said. “I think that sends a great message, particularly to other cities.”


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