March is Women’s History Month, dedicated to honoring women’s achievements but also drawing attention to the challenges they still face. Throughout March, events will be taking place across Erie County to discuss women’s history and issues, provide business networking opportunities, and bring women together for social engagements with films, musical performances, and more. It’s a good way to affirm all that we are doing to promote women’s interests locally, something that my administration has been focused on from the beginning.
Today, women are occupying key posts in county government for the first time and are demonstrating their capability and professionalism every day. Erie County’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein, is the first woman in history to serve in that position. Deputy Erie County Executive Maria Whyte is the first woman to serve in that role in a generation, while other women serve as Commissioners and Directors of several county departments. They are colleagues and friends, and unquestioningly deserve fair treatment in compensation. While that treatment is the case for county government, shockingly it is not the case across the business community.
It is hard to believe, but pay inequality between genders is still a reality in 2015. Did you know that, in 2013 on average, women earned seventy-seven cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earned in nearly every occupation? That disparity is even greater for minorities, as African-American women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. Paychecks tell the story: in Erie County, median weekly earnings for a woman working full-time are $638.00, while a man doing similar work earns $798.00. Over a lifetime, this equates to female workers being unfairly deprived of multiple thousands of dollars of earnings, money that is going to their male counterparts. It is unconscionable that our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters still face this type of pay discrimination today. These women are workers and breadwinners, providing for themselves and their families, and deserve to have their voices heard in the call for fair pay. My administration has heard that call and is amplifying it throughout the community.
To be a community that truly treats all workers equally, we must institute fair pay policies in all sectors. This means equal pay for equal work, the mandate behind my thirteenth executive order, signed in November 2014 and requiring contractors with the county to certify that they provide equal pay between genders. This certification must be demonstrated prior to entering into any contract with Erie County, and contractors are subject to periodic audits by Erie County’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. I was honored to be surrounded by many of the women I work with in county government, as well as many of their counterparts from the community, as I signed the order and reaffirmed Erie County’s commitment to equal pay for women. That commitment needs to be embraced and enforced by all businesses, demonstrating their own resolve to treat their employees equally.