Thurston County and its three biggest cities are passing proclamations to support equal pay for women.
Women’s advocacy groups have proclaimed Tuesday (April 12) as Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of the pay gap.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that women, on average, earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men doing the same job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts that number slightly higher, at 82 cents on the dollar, when considering weekly wages.
However, Thurston County falls below those national averages, with women earning about 68 percent of their male counterparts’ wages, according to the YWCA of Olympia.
In response, the YWCA has launched a workplace equity initiative to encourage local employers to adopt policies that increase racial and gender equity in the workforce.
Some employers are moving in the right direction, according to a December essay on sexism by YWCA of Olympia director Hillary Soens, who praised a pilot project at two state agencies that allows parents to bring infants to the office.
To support this month’s round of proclamations, the YWCA is joined by the Zonta Club of Olympia, the Soroptimist International of Olympia, the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Thurston County and the Interagency of State Employed Women.
The Tumwater City Council issued its Equal Pay Day proclamation Tuesday (April 5). The Thurston County Commissioners and Olympia City Council will announce their proclamations Tuesday (April 12), while the Lacey City Council will do so Thursday (April 14).
Rachel Friedman, president of the Zonta Club, addressed the Tumwater City Council at last week’s meeting about the ongoing effort to equalize pay for women.
“It’s very much an issue for the empowerment of women,” she told The Olympian, noting that women need more opportunities to advance. “They used to talk about the glass ceiling. Now they talk about the sticky floor.”
The proclamations urge local residents to “recognize the full value of women’s skills and significant contributions to the labor force and encourage businesses to conduct an internal pay evaluation to ensure women are being paid fairly.”
The Washington State Employment Security Department estimates that about 54 percent of all employed workers in Thurston County are women. Female-dominated industries include health care, education, finance and insurance, according to the department.
And while cities are supporting proclamations for equal pay, some gaps exist within their own ranks. For example, according to a database for City of Olympia employee salaries in 2015, there was only one woman among the top 50 paid employees: Jane Kirkemo, the city’s finance director, who had the 14th-highest salary last year. She is one of 11 women in the city’s top 100 paid employees. Four of those female employees are with the police department, four are with the fire department and two are with public works.