City’s Gender Pay Gap Report a Good Start, But Lack of Race Info Glaring

Women in Boston make 77 cents on the dollar. But what about women of color?

Photo via Mayor's Office/Don Harney

Photo via Mayor’s Office/Don Harney

Mayor Marty Walsh released a new report on the city’s gender pay gap Thursday, which found that women in Boston earn 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.

The report, compiled by the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, collected wage data from 69 companies using a confidential reporting system devised by data scientists and software engineers Boston University. Because employee-provided data can often prove faulty for a variety of reasons, the employer-reported data used by the BWWC—covering 112,600 employees, representing 11 percent of the workforce located in ZIP codes within I-495—offers a clearer understanding of the gender pay gap in Boston.

“I mean, it’s no surprise. We hear what’s going on in the country. I think that’s what this report gets to the heart of,” Walsh said. “I think that it has to go deeper than just passing [equal pay] legislation.”

According to the report, the average salary for women is $78,954, compared to $103,155 for men, who were also found to receive a larger share of their pay in cash bonuses than women do. Walsh maintained the report’s intent as a conversation-starter about the pay equity problem, rather than a call for any government action aimed at solving it.

Notably missing from the report’s findings, however, was information on how the gender pay gap affecting women of color. A 2016 Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed that black and Hispanic women with a college degree earn roughly 70 percent of the hourly wages of similarly educated white men (compared to 80 percent for white and Asian women).

While the BWWC included participation data by race in its report, the anonymous data collection process left it “unable to confer with participating employers who may have unintentionally omitted data” on salaries by race.

“We recognize that most studies find that the wage gap is significantly worse for women of color,” the report says. “We are disappointed that there was a data glitch that does not allow us to confirm these studies with our unique actual wage data, but this is a top priority for the BWWC and Mayor Walsh because we recognize the intersectionality between gender and race.”

How much of this blindspot can be attributed to a “data glitch” and not some employers’ unwillingness to report salary data by race remains to be seen. Seven percent of overall salaries were not included in the data by race, according to the report.

“We had some trouble. When you have anonymous reporting, you don’t know who to go yell at,” said Cathy Minehan, BWCC co-chair and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “There was some gaps in reporting and it had to do with racial categorization. We did get the numbers, but we didn’t get the salaries in all cases.”

Minehan said the BWCC would study the racial gender pay gap more closely in 2017, and deliver findings in a subsequent report.