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Monroe County to Root Out Pay Inequity

Patti Singer

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Aug. 13, 2020, signed an executive order regarding pay equity for businesses with county contracts. Photo by Mike Henry/Monroe County Department of Communications

Companies seeking to do business with Monroe County will have to show they have not violated equal pay laws within the past five years, according to an executive order signed Aug. 13 by County Executive Adam Bello.

The date of the order was no coincidence: Aug. 13 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the approximate day a Black woman works into the current year to make what a white non-Hispanic man made at the end of the previous year. The day can change from year to year.

Equal pay for equal work has been federal law since the mid-1960s. New York state also prohibits paying men and women differently for the same work. However, state labor data show that on average, a woman who works full time is paid the equivalent of 89 cents for every dollar a man is paid. Black women are paid with equivalent of 64 cents on the dollar and Latina women are paid the equivalent of 55 cents on the dollar.

“Women are the backbone of countless families and, often times, the sole provider of households throughout our community,” Bello said at a news conference. “This pay disparity continues to threaten women and their families throughout our community and jeopardizes their lifelong economic security.”

Women make up 52% of the population in Monroe County. Pay differentials can widen as workers age, and wage gaps are among the causes of poverty. According to the executive order, wage disparities cost the taxpayer. The gaps require the county to provide subsidies and they limit the buying power of women, which would benefit the local economy.

Under the executive order, all non-governmental county contractors must comply with federal and state equal pay laws.

The order states that:

  • The Monroe County Law Department will develop a Monroe County Equal Pay Certification to be used by all county offices, departments and administrative units to ensure compliance throughout the contract approval process.
  • Contractors will need to prove that they have not been the subject of adverse findings under the Equal Pay Laws within the last five years. Any violation of Equal Pay Laws during that period may lead to termination in county contracts and could disqualify future participation in county contracts.
  • The Monroe County Division of Purchasing and Central Services will establish a procedure of compliance monitoring and periodic auditing of certification records.
  • The Monroe County Department of Human Resources will conduct an internal review to ensure county compliance with equal pay laws and equity in pay for county employees.

Bello calling upon the Board Members of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) and the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC) to adopt similar policies applicable to businesses seeking economic development incentives.

Pay inequity is just one issue highlighted by Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
Another is the opportunity gap.

“The State of Black Women in Corporate America,” released Aug. 13 by LeanIn.Org, reported the Black women have a worse work experience that white women and other women of color.

According to the report:

  • Black women are severely underrepresented in management roles: For every 100 entry-level men who are promoted to manager, just 58 Black women are promoted, despite the fact that Black women are similarly interested in leading and ask for promotions at about the same rates.
  • Black women face a steeper path to advancement in part because they don’t get as much support from leadership: Fewer than one-quarter of Black women feel like they have the informal support senior employees give promising junior employees that they need to advance their career, and 59% have never had an informal interaction with a senior leader.
  • Black women encounter microaggressions at work: They are nearly two and a half times more likely than white women—and more than three times more likely than men—to hear someone in their workplace express surprise about their language skills or other abilities.
  • Fifty four percent of Black women are often the only, or one of the only, Black people in the room at work. Black women who are onlys often report feeling closely watched, on guard, and under increased pressure to perform.
  • Many white employees aren’t stepping up as allies to Black women. Less than half of Black women feel that they personally have strong allies at work—and barely a quarter think it’s mostly accurate that Black women have strong allies in their workplace.
  • In spite of the obstacles they face, Black women are motivated to lead. Among employees who want to be top executives, Black women are more likely than men and women overall to be motivated by a desire to positively influence company culture or to be role models for others like them.

The research was conducted by LeanIn.Org and draws on insights from Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study.

The LeanIn report recommends that companies take the following steps:

  • Set representation targets by gender and race combined. Companies also should track hiring and promotion outcomes by gender and race to make sure women of color are getting equal opportunities to advance.
  • Hold leaders accountable for progress. Incorporate diversity targets into management expectations and performance reviews and offer meaningful rewards for success.
  • Require diverse final slates for hiring and promotions. A diverse slate includes two or more candidates from any underrepresented group. Research shows that when two such candidates are included, the chance that one of them will be hired rises dramatically.
  • Use consistent, objective hiring and promotion rubrics. Using a quantitative rating system—such as a five-point scale—has been shown to reduce bias as compared to relying on open-ended questions.
  • Provide comprehensive antiracism and allyship training. Training should emphasize tangible ways that employees can practice allyship, such as speaking out against discrimination and advocating for opportunities for Black women colleagues.
  • Acknowledge events that impact the Black community. When these events occur, leaders should take concrete steps to show support and ensure that Black employees can process their emotions.