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Gender equity in Cincinnati employment a 'mixed bag,' new analysis shows

'It's a moment to figure out how we can do better'
Posted: 5:00 AM, Nov 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-14 10:00:39Z

CINCINNATI -- Halfway through a two-year analysis of the city of Cincinnati’s employment practices, researchers have found a mixed bag when it comes to gender equity.

The good news: Men and women who work for the city are paid equivalent wages when they have the same level of education and experience and share the same job titles.

The bad news: Women and racial minorities tend to be clustered in lower-paying jobs within the city.

The Cincinnati Gender Equality Task Force will unveil its findings -- and discuss what comes next -- during a public forum Nov. 14 organized by Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati. The program starts at 6:30 p.m. at First Unitarian Church on Linton Street.

“In some ways, these are not surprising findings across all institutions in a society that is not equal,” said Anne Sisson Runyan, a professor in the University of Cincinnati’s political science department and co-leader of the analysis. “But we were pleased to find at least that salaries were not out of whack.”

Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann said he was pleased, too.

Mann championed the ordinance that commissioned a gender analysis of city departments and commissions. Cincinnati City Council passed the ordinance unanimously in May 2017, and Mayor John Cranley appointed the task force to oversee the analysis to be conducted to researchers at UC.

“We live with the myth that we wouldn’t do anything wrong,” Mann told WCPO to explain why he pushed for the measure. “And to confirm whether that’s true or not we need to be intentional about reviewing reality.”

The work is born from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty known as CEDAW adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and 189 other countries, said Susan Noonan, a Woman’s City Club board member and co-chair of the task force.

The U.S. has not ratified the treaty. The 2017 vote made Cincinnati one of seven cities across the nation to pass a CEDAW ordinance, Noonan said.

The ordinance called for the city of Cincinnati to pay $8,000 toward the cost of the analysis. Seven different departments at UC helped fund the work, too, along with others including the Zonta Club of Cincinnati, Tri-State Freethinkers and the League of Women Voters. Noonan, who also is co-chair of the task force, said the analysis ultimately would compare Cincinnati to other cities and provide recommendations and budget priorities to reduce gender bias.

“Heaven knows our city has had some discrimination issues going on, and gender and race are so intertwined,” Noonan said. “We need to be looked at as a progressive city if we want young people to come back here. It’s a perfect time for our city to look at gender discrimination that still exists.”

Runyan said the next phase of the analysis would look at how race and gender intersect within the city.

The analysis found that while women who worked for the city didn’t perceive a lot of gender barriers there, racial minorities did. Researchers haven’t yet sorted out how women of color employed by the city perceive their work environment, Runyan said, or whether there is a big difference in the perceptions of men and women of color.

“It is a mixed bag, both in terms of the quantitative data and in terms of the perceptual data,” she said.

Ultimately, the hope is that city leaders will use the information to put in place best practices and be a model for other government entities and businesses in the region, she said.

“It’s only the beginning. No matter what we complete, we’re going to encourage that the Gender Equality Task Force remain in place,” Runyan said. “There’s always room for improvement.”

Mann agreed, saying the analysis isn’t “a gotcha moment, it’s a moment to figure out how we can do better.

“Number one, it’s the right thing to do,” Mann said. “Number two, it’s one of many values that over time will have a lot to do with decisions of people to want to live here, to want to come here and look for location opportunities for businesses. For a lot of companies, it’s not just where they can get public subsidies, they want it to be a place where their workforce -- current and future -- would want to live.”

A public forum, called “From Research to Reality: Gender Equity in Cincinnati Employment,” will be hold Nov. 14 at First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the program is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. For more information, email wcc@womanscityclub.org .

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may . To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.