10 Things Mayors Can Do for Women’s Equality

Mayors have enormous impact on the lives of women. They can take action directly regarding city employees, encourage action by business for private sector workers, and raise awareness of key issues. When we uplift women, we also uplift families and communities. That’s why I wrote the Mayors Guide to Accelerating Gender Equality. (For a free digital copy, email me at emlecain@gmail.com).

Although some people think women already enjoy full equality, women still face serious challenges, particularly regarding economic security. Consider that women...

* are often the sole breadwinner for their children;

* are clustered in low-income jobs;

* often get paid less than men for the same or similar jobs across all income levels (women earn only 83% of men’s wages), creating a wealth gap that increases over time;

* frequently can’t afford to buy a home or invest so they don’t build assets;

* earn less from Social Security and live longer with fewer financial resources, and also

* are vulnerable to harassment and violence, with 1 in 3 women assaulted.

Here are 10 things mayors can do for women that will also strengthen our families and communities:

1. Establish and fund a Department for Women and Gender Equality (or Women’s Commission): Create a team that brings people together to express concerns, explore possibilities, take action and coordinate programs.

2. Track what’s happening with women in your community: Gather data such as income and education by age and race; the data will tell you a story about what’s happening and show you what needs to be addressed.

3. Raise the minimum wage and more to close the gender wage gap: The fastest way to help women pay the bills and improve economic security is to raise their income. Since 56% of minimum wage workers are women, an increase in the minimum wage will help many women. A minimum wage of $15 per hour is a good goal. More broadly, strengthen and enforce laws against discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion. Mayor Marty Walsh in Boston is offering training for women to negotiate higher pay.

4. Provide affordable, accessible, quality child care: Access to affordable childcare frees women to work and increase income, reduces stress, and opens time for civic engagement. Child care is identified by women in Iceland as the most important factor enabling them to become #1 in gender equality in the world.

5. Provide paid family leave and sick leave: Many women lose income from work, or even lose their jobs, when they take time away from work to care for a newborn infant, a child or other sick family member. Over 39% of workers do not have even one paid sick day in their job. Only 12% of private-sector employees can access paid family leave. Paid family leave and sick leave enable women to care for their families and keep their jobs.

6. Review city staff, appoint women to half of the top jobs: See how many women are on the city staff, including cabinet and key positions as well as the police department. Ensure that women are 50% of professional staff. As Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said when asked why he appointed 50% women to his cabinet, “Because it’s 2015.”

7. Conduct Gender Budgeting: Analyze your budget with an eye to how it impacts women and men. Iceland has a position dedicated to this for the country. This analysis can be done by one or more members of your financial team: a little guidance from someone with expertise in gender budgeting could be very helpful.

8. Support women and girls to pursue STEM careers: Thousands of well paying jobs are available right now that women could fill if they had the right education and training. Millions of new jobs will be created in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). This is a great opportunity for women and girls IF they have the right background: provide education and training in STEM fields and support women and girls to participate.

9. Adopt CEDAW: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) offers a framework for women’s human rights. About 179 nations have adopted it, but not yet the US. Meanwhile, cities can adopt it as a statement that they support women’s rights as human rights.

10. Support violence prevention and treatment: Train police how to deal with domestic violence. Stop treating prostitutes as criminals and support their transition to a better life. See guns as a potential public health threat and manage them to increase community safety.

As a citizen, you can encourage mayors to take these actions. If you’re a mayor, you can make it happen. I am actively working with mayors now to implement this agenda for action.