Follow Boston’s (and AWP’s) Lead in Pay Equity

by Adam Gaynor

It appears that the City of Boston has taken a page from the playbook of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently announced an initiative to close the gender wage gap in Boston through a partnership with local and regional companies (Women currently earn 85 cents to every dollar earned by men in Boston; the national statistic is 77 cents!) Each company that signs the equity pledge is expected to undertake three initiatives:

  1. Assess their own wage data through a gendered lens
  2. Pick three strategies to improve pay equity from a list recommended by a city task force
  3. Anonymously share their wage data every two years to enable meta-level evaluation

Critics might point out that the program is voluntary, and that without equity enforcement – or public shame – companies have little incentive to participate and comply. But the strategy, similar to the one championed by Shifra Bronznick in the Jewish community, is to build an equity movement that lives beyond a single feminist organization or champion, and to embed a strong economic rationale for gender pay equity that appeals to those whose primary concern is the bottom line, rather than social justice.

In Boston, there’s a clear economic rationale; according to NPR, Boston is “home to the highest proportion of young, educated women in the country,” a talent pool the city needs to retain. In the Jewish communal sector, the economic rationale is particularly clear as we approach the mass retirement of our baby boomer leaders. Here’s the stark reality: approximately 75% of Jewish communal professionals are women, yet few currently occupy the C-suites of our organizations. On the Forward’s recent list of the top 75 Jewish communal organizations, only 10 CEOs are women!

There is no shortage of data on the glass ceiling in Jewish organizations, and the resulting exodus of female professionals from the sector. Retaining talented young women should be priority #1. Gender pay equity is a place to start.

Advancing Women Professionals has a gender equity pledge signed by a growing list of Jewish partner organizations and by “male allies” as well. Nationally, Jewish communal organizations and their CEOs should sign the AWP pledge, and In the Boston area they should participate in Mayor Menino’s initiative. It makes good leadership sense, and it makes good economic sense. Organizations that value, invest in, and mentor their professionals, and cultivate an atmosphere of trust and transparency, tend to attract and retain superior employees. As any well-read CEO knows, the cost of attrition is high relative to the cost of retention.

Ultimately, there’s a double bottom line. The Jewish communal sector is in the people business, and we can’t serve our people well while there’s inequity in the workplace, and attrition of promising talent. It is time to take the pledge, and adopt the personal and organizational strategies to achieve true equity.

Adam Gaynor is a partner at Plan A Advisors, a management consulting and planning firm for nonprofits and philanthropies.