Women and non-binary people in San Jose are at a crossroads and City Manager Dave Sykes may decide our direction for generations.
A bit of recent history: we were thrilled when our city took a major step toward gender equality by introducing the Women’s Bill of Rights, which passed unanimously by San Jose’s City Council on Dec. 19, 2017. The Women’s Bill of Rights could be a vital tool in building a future where women and girls and non-binary people in our city achieve the full protection and enforcement of their human rights—if we fund it.
Back in June, Mayor Sam Liccardo asked the City Manager’ s office to determine if the Women’ s Bill of Rights could be implemented with no additional funding by this December. Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco had asked for $150,000 for an independent, experienced consultant to implement it, which is about 15 percent of what San Francisco spends on a similar bill every year. That’s a good deal for the women, girls, and non-binary people this law aims to support.
The mayor is still awaiting Mr. Sykes’ recommendation, due to be written in November.
Our Women’ s Bill of Rights is special. It is the local implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and requires a gender analysis of city departments, programs and policies.
What does this look like? An independently-run gender analysis is a key good government and gender equality tool, building a baseline of whether San Jose is investing equitably, from homeless shelters and housing access to baseball fields and the budget. San Jose must engage an independent pay equity expert because a proper investigation requires not only technical (statistical expertise) but also extensive experience with pay equity investigations.
An independent investigation is also visibly more transparent and avoids potential conflicts of interest. Employees who wish can freely speak to the investigator knowing that the conversation is confidential, and they are safe from retaliation. There is also no perceived bias in favor of employee or employer with an independent investigator.
A comprehensive gender analysis also involves an assessment of programs that benefit women and non-binary people in the city such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and housing for homeless women and non-binary people.
We’ re not the only Bay Area municipality doing this important work. Here are the facts:
- Santa Clara County has dedicated one full time employee to manage the county’s gender analysis under their version of the Women’s Bill of Rights.
- When San Francisco passed its CEDAW in 1998, Supervisors funded one full-time employee plus a consultant budget. Their director says “staffing is essential” to success.
- San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women has six full time employees plus one grant-funded full-time employee managing their implementation plus a budget of $7 million, $6 million of which goes straight back into the city as community grants.
- The gender analysis will track trends and disparities across gender, race, disability and the intersection of gender and race and disability.
- Without dedicated staffing, city departments may not have the tools, the statistical know-how, or capacity to evaluate how their work already changes the lives of women in our city—and where they can improve.
This brings us back to Sykes’ crossroads and the letter he must write to the mayor.
The first road: he can reiterate the vice mayor’s request for $150,000 for an independent, experienced consultant to complete the gender analysis. He can remind the mayor that back in March, the Human Services Commission, the body tasked with overseeing implementation of the Women’s Bill of Rights, recommended that the City Council allocate $300,000 along with three full-time employees.
The second road: he can ignore the recommendation of the oversight body, dismiss the vice mayor’s request, and claim his department does not need additional resources to comprehensively review how city programs, policies, and departments are investing in women, girls and non-binary people.
As the leaders of the CEDAW Task Force, we strongly encourage him to pick the first road—the road that leads to a San Jose where women, girls, and non-binary people are treated equitable by city policies.
We urge him to request full funding for the Women’s Bill of Rights.
Taraneh Roosta chairs the CEDAW Task Force and Ruth Silver-Taube is a CEDAW Task Force Member and head of the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition. Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].