City Of Boulder Leading Employer When Gender Equity Is The Metric

By Shay Castle
Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Boulder has implemented a number of policies to encourage parity for female city employees including a “very robust” benefits package, a starting wage of more than $15 per hour and a 12-week paid parental leave policy.

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

When it comes to women in the workplace, Boulder is outperforming Colorado and the nation as a whole. At least the city’s employees are.

Mayor Suzanne Jones spoke Wednesday at the Denver Gender Equity Summit, where she cited the results of a recently completed gender equity wage study of Boulder’s municipal work force.

Female employees with the city earn 88 percent of what male workers do.

That’s above the national and state average: Women in the Colorado work force still earn about 81 percent of what white men do, according to a 2015 white paper from the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

Nationally, that’s at 83 percent, Pew Research Center reported.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done so far,” Jones said. It was not by accident. Boulder has implemented a number of policies to encourage parity, including a “very robust” benefits package, a starting wage of more than $15 per hour and a 12-week paid parental leave policy.

Follow-through remains the biggest barrier to increasing women’s work force participation, Jones said.

The same goes for women taking on roles in government, added Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan.

Following the devastating 2013 floods, Sullivan took the “unpopular” move of enforcing term limits on the town’s boards and governing bodies, a rule that had long been overlooked, and began actively seeking out more diverse applicants to fill the spots.

It was a necessary move, she said, to solve the challenges Lyons faced in the aftermath of the disaster. “If you want to solve issues in your community that affect everyone, you need everyone at the table.”

Including more voices in the decision-making process is becoming more important in the private sector, too, said Gretchen Selfridge, from the restaurant support office for Denver-based Chipotle.

“If you don’t pay attention to what the employees of today want, you won’t be an employer of choice,” Selfridge said. “It’s easy for businesses to think about the costs of implementing policies or programs, but what happens if you don’t? That costs something, too.”

Chipotle’s efforts to increase diversity have included the implementation of paid sick leave and tuition reimbursement. Last year, over half (54 percent) of employees who received funds were women, to whom the company paid out some $4 million in tuition.

Steps like those are important ones to recruiting and retaining a diverse work force, said Caryolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

Those are the things that will create change, in addition to the conversations happening in Denver and across the country. “We want talk to lead to action and not just more talk.”

Follow-through remains the biggest barrier to achieving parity, Jones said. “It’s not enough to send out a job description and hope women apply. You’ve got to actively recruit women and figure out how to create that culture that communicates, ‘We want you here.’

“There is not try, there is only do.”

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