In a sign of the MeToo movement’s resonance in California politics, all of the major Democratic candidates for governor are vowing to hire equal numbers of men and women if they’re elected and to pay both equally for the same jobs.

Salary data from the candidates’ government offices and campaign staffs show that — for the most part — they’ve already done so. On average, women working for the campaigns of at least three of the four top Democrats are earning more than men.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and State Treasurer John Chiang all told the Bay Area News Group they agreed on a pledge proposed last month by former state schools chief Delaine Eastin for gender equity in pay and hiring. The pledge extends to their staffs, appointments and leadership positions.

However, the two Republican candidates, businessman John Cox and State Assemblyman Travis Allen, both rejected the idea of a gender-based “quota.” Their campaigns say the two support gender equality but care more about hiring individual employees than overall parity.

While political leaders in Canada, France and elsewhere have similarly vowed to uphold gender equity in their hiring, Sacramento State University politics professor Kim Nalder said this is the first high-profile example in California politics. The pledge comes amid increasing scrutiny of pay inequities both within California and around the country.

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“We’ve had this kind of cultural epiphany around all these issues of harassment and gender equity and pay, and it seems like people aren’t going to stand for it anymore,” Nalder said.

In California, women are paid 86 cents to the dollar for men, and women of color earn even less, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The state legislature has passed several bills to combat pay inequity in recent years, including one signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that allows female government employees to pursue wage discrimination claims in court.

“I do think you look at the world differently if you’ve been wearing a skirt,” Eastin said in an interview, adding that she’s personally experienced pay disparities in past jobs.

It isn’t enough for her male rivals to just pledge equity, Eastin insisted. “Talk is cheap,” she said. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating: Do they have pay parity now in their staffs?” She took a specific shot at Chiang: “He hasn’t been good about promoting women.”

However, data from the treasurer’s office suggest there isn’t a major gender gap under Chiang. Sixty percent of the department’s employees are female, as are seven out of 16 — 44 percent — of the managers appointed by Chiang. Of the 50 highest-paid employees in his office, 21 are women.

Chiang’s campaign argued that 75 percent of the “leadership” in his office are women or people of color and that he’s used his role as treasurer to encourage diversity on corporate boards in California.

“I’m not only pledging to hire as many women as men and pay them equitable salaries, but I’m fighting for that today across different industries,” Chiang said in a statement.

Newsom has five women and two men on his seven-person lieutenant governor staff, according to data provided by his office. While the men are paid more on average — $8,586 a month vs. $6,329 — that disparity can be explained by differences in job role, as one of the men is Newsom’s chief of staff. A female staffer is paid more than a man in the only job where people of both genders share a title.

On the campaign side, women are paid more than men by at least three of the Democratic campaigns, according to data released by their staffs. (Villaraigosa’s campaign did not release average salary numbers by gender.)

That trend “is somewhat surprising and probably shows a concerted effort by the campaigns,” Nalder said. “Politics is traditionally fairly male-dominated.”

Data from San Francisco and Los Angeles also suggests that Newsom and Villaraigosa promoted gender equity when they served as mayors — in their last years in office, near or more than half of the top 50 highest-paid employees in their offices were female. Both also promoted women to other high-level positions, including Newsom’s choice of the first female police and fire chiefs in San Francisco.

In comparison, only three members of President Trump’s 16-person cabinet are women.

Meanwhile, the two GOP candidates for the governor’s mansion rejected the hiring equity pledge. Cox, who is in second place in recent polls, “doesn’t believe in quotas but does believe in equal pay for equal work,” said spokesman Matt Shupe.

Allen said in a statement that he was “confident that there will be many great men and women in our administration from every walk of life — but it will not be because we are filling a quota.”

Neither Republican campaign released statistics about their gender-equity numbers. Citing quotas is “the traditional pushback” to policies promoting gender equity or race-based affirmative action, Nalder argued.

The office of Gov. Brown says he already has a strong record on the issue. Just over half of his current appointees to state government, 50.76 percent, are women, according to data released by Brown’s office. His top three advisers were all women — executive secretary Nancy McFadden passed away in March — although seven of the 11 cabinet secretaries leading major departments are men.

“Whichever candidate succeeds the governor will have big shoes to fill in terms of workplace representation,” said Brown spokesman Brian Ferguson.

While governors can set hiring and pay policies for their own staff and name appointees across the state government, they don’t have as much power to directly tackle the longstanding pay inequities among the broader state workforce. A 2016 report found that female state employees earned 79.5 cents for every dollar earned by male employees, although much of that disparity comes from lower salaries guaranteed in contracts for female-dominated jobs such as nurses, compared to male-dominated jobs, such as highway patrol officers.


(c)2018 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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