Op-Ed by Mayor Walsh: Facing Boston’s gender wage gap

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

When I first took office in 2014 I pledged to listen, learn and lead. It quickly became clear that leading on gender equity was essential to our City’s success. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is important to our economy as a whole and businesses’ bottom lines. Women make up the majority of our city, but like every city and most companies in the nation, women — and especially women of color — are underrepresented and underpaid in our workforce.

To lead, we had to listen and learn from real data and business leaders. We had two options: ignore the gender wage gap and hope it goes away over time (data tells us that we will reach pay equity by the year 2152) or do something about it. For us, there never really was a choice. We had to act.

Together with the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement and the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, we created a report detailing the gender wage gap in Boston. This first-of-its-kind report drew data directly from employers and businesses themselves, which became the 2016 gender wage gap report. A tremendous amount of work went into this study, three years in the making. Over 112 thousand employees from Greater Boston participated — representing $11 billion in annual earnings.

Here’s what we learned: Boston has a 23 cent wage gap, meaning women make on average 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in Greater Boston.

This report is the first of its kind in the country. This is the first time actual wage data has been reported both anonymously and voluntarily. This is a groundbreaking moment in tackling the gender wage gap. It establishes a wage gap baseline for the City, by which we will measure our future progress — and what the wage gap looks like in individual industries. This report is the first of many steps we will take towards action to finally achieve gender parity in the workplace and make Boston the premier place for working women.

We know that the gender wage gap is a complex problem. It requires a multifaceted solution. We were excited to see Equal Pay legislation pass on Beacon Hill. It will do a lot to bring transparency to the hiring process.

But we as a City need to be doing more than legislation. We will continue to host salary negotiation workshops to help working women understand their value. So far, we’ve trained over 2,500 women in Boston.

We’ll continue to engage our businesses, our schools, and our government as partners in all of our efforts. We’ll continue growing our numbers and partnerships with the 100% Talent Compact, a voluntary pledge signed by over 180  companies indicating their commitment to closing the gender wage gap in the workplace. We’ll continue to create a culture shift from the ground up.

We will continue to make sure Boston is the best city in the U.S. for working women. We do this because it’s not only the right thing to do – but because it’s important for the economic vitality and the future of our City. It’s 2017: it’s time we stop talking and start taking action to close the wage gap. This report moves us more confidently in that direction.

I want to stress that our work couldn’t be possible without the support of our business community. Boston is lucky to have companies so committed to women’s equity in the workplace. I look forward to continuing our work together.

To learn more about the Boston Women’s Workforce and read the report, visit https://www.boston.gov/civic-engagement/womens-workforce-council.