By Lilly Rockwell
Jessica Robledo stood before a group of three dozen women scattered throughout the pews of a cavernous East Austin church.
“Today is your day,” Robledo proclaimed to the group. “Today is about YOU! Be selfish.”
She paused, pacing up and down the center aisle. “Women have a tendency to put everybody ahead of them, and they leave themselves in the back,” She looked at a little boy sitting with his mother.
“Isn’t that right, Paulo? He knows that Mommy takes care of him, because that’s what we DO.” Another pause. “So how about you put YOU first? How about you say: ‘This is my goal.'”
Robledo is an assistant police chief in the Austin Police Department, the highest-ranking woman in a department that is 77 percent male.
Her mission at that Oct. 17 event was to persuade more women to join the Austin Police Department. It was the third recruitment meeting for women the department had held, and it also featured a YouTube video highlighting several women who work for the Police Department.
Such a gender disparity doesn’t only affect the Police Department. An American-Statesman analysis of the city government’s workforce — nearly 12,000 full-time employees as of April 1, the date of the data set provided in response to a records request — found nearly 70 percent of those city of Austin workers are men. Women become an even smaller percentage of the employees in higher-paying jobs.
That is largely due to a phenomenon known as “occupational segregation,” in which men seek careers, such as engineering, with more lucrative salaries, and women seek careers, such as library services, that don’t pay as well.
The Police Department is an example of how occupational segregation works. Of the 1,755 sworn police officers in the Statesman analysis, only 177 are women. But women make up a majority of the department’s “non-sworn” positions, jobs such as crisis counselors and 911 call-takers, which tend to be lower paid than on-the-streets police work.