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Minority Women In Boston Earn Nearly Half On The Dollar What White Men Earn, Report Finds

Women, especially black and Latina women, in Greater Boston make less than men. Here, Kristina Desir, a program manager for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), leads a salary negotiation workshop in Dorchester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR/file)MoreCloseclosemore
Women, especially black and Latina women, in Greater Boston make less than men. Here, Kristina Desir, a program manager for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), leads a salary negotiation workshop in Dorchester. (Jesse Costa/WBUR/file)

Black and Latina women in Greater Boston make around 50 cents on the dollar compared to white men, according to a new report.

The report, released Wednesday by the Boston Women's Workforce Council, found black women earn 52 cents on the dollar compared to white men, while Latina women earn only 49 cents on the dollar. Asian women earn 71 cents on the dollar compared to white men, and white women earn 75 cents on the dollar, according to the report.

National estimates have previously shown the wage gap is worse for women of color. Officials say this report paints a more accurate picture of the wage gap here in Greater Boston. Typically, wage gap estimates use salary information reported by employees. The new report analyzed salary data reported directly by employers.

"We know for women of color the numbers are far worse, and this report really highlights those gaps and also talks about how we need to be intentional not only about paying women of color equally, but [also addressing] where are women of color in our organizations," said Megan Costello, executive director of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's office of women's advancement.

On average, women in Greater Boston (defined as ZIP codes within I-495) make 76 cents for every dollar men make, the report also shows. Nationally, women earn 80 cents for every dollar men make, and statewide women earn 82 cents on the dollar.

The wage disparities also varied by job category, the report found. Sales employees and service workers experience the largest gaps, according to the report — with those women making 63 cents and 57 cents, respectively, to a man's dollar. The report found that craft workers (like plumbers, painters and construction workers), as well as operatives, (such as flight attendants, bus drivers and equipment operators) see the smallest gaps in wages. Women in these fields earn 88 cents to a man's dollar, the report said. Women in administrative support jobs had the closest parity — even slightly out-earning men $1.02 to the dollar.

The report's findings are based on 2017 wage data for 166,705 employees at 114 companies. That's about 16 percent of the Greater Boston workforce. The data was anonymized and came from companies that have signed the city's 100% Talent Compact to address pay inequity.

The report enhances a similar one issued last year by the council. That report, however, had a smaller sample size and didn't include a breakdowns along racial demographics.

MaryRose Mazzola, executive director of the Boston Women's Workforce Council, said the new report provides a better baseline against which to measure future progress.

"I really think that we can't take real steps on this issue, [and] we’ll just keep talking about it in theory unless we have the hard data to back up that, yes, it's a problem right here where we live," Mazzola said.

It's important to note that the new study includes a larger sample of women — 60 percent — than the Greater Boston workforce, which is about evenly split. And the report says the study sample likely over-represents women in lower-paying jobs, which could make the wage gap appear larger.

The Boston Women's Workforce Council plans to issue a report with the same focus every other year.

Since 2015, Boston has been offering free salary negotiation workshops to women, an effort Massachusetts officials recently announced they will be replicating statewide. In 2016, state lawmakers passed a pay equity law.

Still, officials acknowledge efforts to close the wage gap come down to employers.

"Even though we think the city plays a role here and is responsible in convening all these companies and setting the tone for these issues, the companies are the ones that are really going to change the culture effectively," Mazzola said.

The city has been meeting quarterly with local businesses to address problems around equal pay.

Related:

Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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