A study released Monday shows major gender-based wage gaps among employees in Wake County, in many cases detailing larger gaps between men’s and women’s salaries than those seen in comparative markets in Boston and Austin, Texas.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners received a report from a sixteen-member task force, a panel that resulted from a 2016 Wake County Women’s Commission study on women’s employment issues.
“We ended up with some really disturbing figures for the wage gap for women in Wake County,” former Commissioner Carolina Sullivan said.
The new study, by Meredith professors David McLennan and Whitney Ross Manzo, compared wage equity in Wake County with the levels in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, or Boston, and Travis County, Texas, where Austin is located.
“The gender gap is higher in Wake than in our peer counties of Travis and Suffolk,” the new study says. “Wake County has the largest wage gap between men and women at all educational levels.”
Spelled out in more specific terms, the contrast is even more striking. Men with less than a high school degree in Wake County make an average of $21,513, while women at the same education level make $12,723, a gap of 40.86 percent. In Austin, that gap is 33.74 percent. In Boston, it’s 21.2 percent.
Wake men respondents with graduate or professional degrees make an average of $82,654, compared to $50,093 for women at the same level. The gap is 39.39 percent. Travis County’s gap for that group of employees is a little lower, at 38.67 percent, and Boston is much lower, at 21.43 percent.
Closer to home, Sullivan said, a survey showed that women who work for Wake County also experience a wage gap. Wake’s female employees make about $15,000 less than men at top levels, and about $3,000 less at the lower end.
Task force members and the commission discussed a variety of means of reducing the gap. They included negotiation training, back-to-work programs and a collaborative public effort led by Wake Tech.
Meanwhile, a majority of Wake County commissioners followed the example of their Raleigh City Council compadres Monday and voted for expanding areas of the county—unincorporated areas and RDU International Airport—in which alcohol could legally be served at ten a.m. Sundays. However, Commissioner James West suggested that the panel not rush into signing off on the earlier drinking hours—and voted his conscience.
West’s negative vote meant that a second vote is necessary, likely at the first meeting in August, so airport imbibers will still have to put off their first Bloody Mary until the current legal hour of noon Sundays.
Commissioners also approved the county’s $6.2 million affordable housing program, using funds from the federal government, Wake County, and the county’s municipalities, said Alicia Arnold, director of housing and transportation at Wake County Human Services.
The highest priorities of the effort are renters who make at or below 40 percent of the area median income, or $32,080 for a family of four; people or families who are homeless; and people and families who aren’t homeless but have special needs.
Commissioner John Burns noted that President Trump’s proposed budget would cut more than $4 million from the federal money stream. The county’s plan still requires federal approval, which is expected in August.