Bozeman City Hall

A look at Bozeman City Hall on Rouse Avenue.

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The Bozeman City Commission recognized Equal Pay Day and approved Monday evening a measure aimed at further closing the pay gap between men and women.

The new resolution reinforces best practices that have been used by the city, but aren’t outlined specifically by existing policies. Those practices include not requesting salary history during the hiring process, advertising pay ranges for a position and requiring applicants to acknowledge that they understand those pay ranges.

The resolution also requires the city to obtain signed affirmations related to the city’s equal pay and non-discrimination policies with vendor bids or requests for proposals. The resolution also requires a contractor of the city to report any violation of the state’s equal pay for equal work law and to visit a state website outlining best equal pay practices.

The commission passed the resolution unanimously. 

The commission enacted an initial policy in 2010 when it passed a resolution declaring the city would not discriminate in employment and benefits based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The commission also adopted a policy prohibiting discrimination when the city enters into contracts, agreements or makes purchases.

The resolution cited data that showed at the time, women made on average 71 cents to a man’s dollar in the U.S., and that Montana women made 67 cents to a man’s dollar.

In 2015, the commission approved an equal pay resolution that pledged to eliminate unequal pay for equal work. It also had the city study whether gender-related wage gaps exist for city employees and look into whether disparities exist in the promotion of women into management positions. It also commits the commission to recognizing Equal Pay Day each year.

Mayor Chris Mehl read a proclamation commemorating Equal Pay Day during Monday’s city commission meeting.

The proclamation noted that now, white women in the U.S. make 82 cents to a man’s dollar, and that Montana women make on average 77 cents to a man’s dollar. The disparity increases for women of color, with Hispanic and Latina women earning 54 cents, American Indian or Alaska Native women earning 57 cents, African American women earning 62 cents and Asian women earning 89 cents.

Kristin Donald, acting human resources director for the city, gave an equal pay update and said the city uses the Thrive Index to determine the best ways to tackle inequity among male and female employees. The index outlines the importance of factors like adequate wages, the possibility of upward mobility, flexible work schedules, autonomy, respect and trust to create an equitable environment.

“We compare ourself to this Thrive Idex and we consistently do well,” Donald said.

She noted the city has made progress in hiring women in male dominated fields. For example, two women have filled part-time jobs with the police department, a female building inspector has been hired and for the first time, the city fire department employs two women, Donald said.

However, city data show that female city employees with graduate degrees earn 72.2% of what male employees with graduate degrees earn. Of the city’s top 25 earners, 7.4% are female.

City Commissioner Terry Cunningham said it’s clear the city has made an effort to tackle the issue, but that progress has been slow.

“I think it shows the pernicious nature of the problem, and it shows how deep-rooted some of these issues are,” Cunningham said.

Research from the Cities for Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) published in September found that of the top 25% highest paid jobs with the city of Bozeman, 92.3% were held by men and 7.7% were held by women. Among city employees, women’s median pay, with comparable education, is 69.8% of what men make.

The research also delved into gender-based violence and reported that HAVEN found a 14% increase in participants between 2017 to 2018 in Bozeman. The Help Center had 329 reports of interpersonal violence in 2017. They advocated for 120 adult victims of sexual assault and accompanied 59 women for forensic exams 2018.

Jan Strout, co-leader of CEDAW, who has long advocated for gender equality in Bozeman, spoke Monday about the importance of studying gender disparity. She commended the city for creating a volunteer task force that will focus on issues surrounding inequality and will create an action plan to address them.

“We want to help make a difference,” Strout said.

Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus said she’d like to see a much broader effort that includes women, people of color and other marginalized groups in the push to make the city workforce more diverse.

She said she’d like Equal Pay Day to become obsolete.

“I hope that someday in my lifetime we no longer commemorate Equal Pay Day because we don’t need to,” Andrus said.

This story has been updated with results from the commission's vote that took place after print deadline. Commissioners approved the new equal pay resolution unanimously. 

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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