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Originally published Friday, July 19, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: Seattle’s gender pay gap is a problem, but not an election issue

The city’s gender-pay gap report highlights a problem that needs a solution, but the blame can be spread over a generation of city leadership.

Seattle Times Editorial


A startling report in April found Seattle, supposedly a leader in progressive values, had the widest gender pay gap among the nation’s big cities, with Seattle women paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men.

In response, Mayor Mike McGinn commissioned a study of the city’s 9,885 employees. On Tuesday, that review confirmed a gender pay gap on the city payroll, with women paid about 90 cents on the dollar.

This being 20 days before the mayoral primary election, McGinn’s opponents in the race pounced. And they missed.

Accusing McGinn of ignoring the gender pay gap now, as former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck did, ignores the fact that McGinn commissioned this review in response to recent data.

State Sen. Ed Murray, whom The Seattle Times editorial board recommends to be the next mayor, accused McGinn of failure and demanded a task force to study the issue — which McGinn already had done, appointing an official from YWCA of Seattle-King-Snohomish as co-chair.

Seeking to land political punches is a wasted exercise because McGinn and his progressive Democratic opponents agree: Women should be paid on par with male peers. Period.

And it is disingenuous to narrowly blame McGinn for an issue rooted in socio-economic, educational and cultural factors.

If there is blame to throw around, much of it could be hung on a generation of city leadership.

Ending it requires concerted effort. And if women hit a glass ceiling because of their gender, let’s break out the tools of anti-discrimination laws.

The city’s gender pay review includes provocative data. Why are the 36 female assistant city attorneys paid nearly 11 percent less than 28 male counterparts? Why is there just one woman out of 18 captains on the Seattle police force? Why are women in the officials/administration category at City Light paid $7.10 an hour less than men?

McGinn did a good, if not politically expedient, thing by simply asking for good data to start the deeper conversation.