County Tackles Gender Wage Gap; Gov. Jerry Brown Pledges to Sign Equal Pay Bill

With Gov. Jerry Brown ready to sign a bill aimed at closing the wage gap between men and women, California will soon claim some of the strongest pay equity laws in the nation.

Santa Clara County leaders have called for local rules to build on that effort. County supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez proposed regulations requiring the county and all of its contractors to offer equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

The ordinance—announced on Wednesday, Women’s Equality Day—will come up for a vote at the Sept. 15 board meeting.

“With more and more households headed by women, communities have increasingly taken on pay equity as a local issue,” says Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, head of the county's Office of Women’s Policy. “That’s what happened in San Francisco, and now we're seeing that in our county with this proposal.”

In the 52 years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, the pay gap has narrowed by only 18 cents. Loopholes make the federal law tough to enforce. And pay secrecy makes it hard for women to know if they earn less than their male colleagues.

Today, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some researchers dispute that calculation, saying the gap shrinks when comparing men and women with the same job and same experience.

In Silicon Valley, women with a bachelor's degree earn up to 61 percent less than men with the same education. Part of that owes to what's been called a "position gap." That is, men are more likely to have higher-paying positions than their female counterparts, who remain vastly underrepresented in the tech sector.

Regardless, the disparity sharpens for women of color. In California, black women take home 64 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the Department of Labor. Latinas claim the largest wage gap in the United States, earning just 44 cents to that dollar. In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, Latinas working full-time earn 35 percent of white male salaries.

On Thursday, SB 358—the California Fair Pay Act, penned by Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)—passed the state Assembly in a resounding 66-2 vote. The bipartisan-backed bill now returns to the Senate for a second vote before landing on Gov. Brown’s desk.

Brown, who rarely comments on pending legislation, has pledged to sign it. Top aide Nancy McFadden announced as much in a tweet on Women's Equality Day.

With Brown’s blessing, this new law will add protections for women who speak up about unfair pay and discuss salaries with their colleagues. It also requires equal pay for “substantially similar work,” regardless of gender but with exceptions for merit, seniority and productivity.

Another pay parity bill would prohibit employers from asking job candidates about their salary history. AB 1017, sponsored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), passed the Assembly and was sent to the Senate.

The county’s proposed ordinance would bolster federal and state law with local enforcement. It would require the county—which happens to be the largest employer in the region—to research, analyze and correct pay inequities and hiring practices.

County officials have enacted a series of wage policies demanding that contractors hired on the public dime treat their employees equitably.

In January, county supervisors passed a living wage ordinance requiring for-profit companies doing business with the county to pay employees at least $19.06 an hour. In August of last year, the board approved new rules on wage theft that would disqualify companies from county contracts if they stiffed workers on pay.

Chavez and Cortese will announce the equal pay proposal at Friday's Women's Equality Day luncheon at San Jose's Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Commission on the Status of Women to Celebrate Annual Women's Equality Day Aug. 28.

— Santa Clara County (@SCCgov) August 20, 2015

Rounding out a week dedicated to women’s equality is a march and rally taking place Saturday. The event commemorates the 95th anniversary of women securing the right to vote.

Speakers include Supervisor Chavez, San Jose Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, the city’s Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, Santa Clara County Board of Education President Darcie Green and workers rights attorney Ruth Silver Taube.

A county exhibit last year highlighted the pay disparity between men and women.

A county exhibit last year highlighted the pay disparity between men and women.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. “Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, head of the county’s Office of Women’s Policy.”

    “Our Strategies
    Serve as a bridge between County and community to ensure the voice of women and girls is present in decision-making
    Conduct outreach and dialogue to identify and raise awareness of current and emerging issues for women and girls
    Strategically collaborate to better leverage resources, identify programs and services, and examine the effectiveness of policy and systems in meeting the needs of women and girls
    Influence the legislative process at the local, state and national levels”

    4 employees

    None detailed on website.

    Someone please tell me again why this is justified? or Why the Human Relations Commission couldn’t do it for free.

    • As a result of my work in the community, I have worked closely with Esther Peralez-Dieckmann and the other staff members in the Office of Women’s Policy. I disagree with your assessment of the Office of Women’s Policy’s accomplishments, and I can say categorically that OWP is indispensable. Their work is consistently outstanding, their staff are highly professional and tireless workers, and their accomplishments are almost too numerous to list. They staff the Commission on the Status of Women and the Domestic Violence Council. They have facilitated and promoted the successful integration of formerly incarcerated women into the community and workforce. They operate a Jail Monitoring Program of the Women’s Facilities, implement a Gender Responsive Training, and have established a Gender Responsive Protocol for the Department of Corrections. They hold an Annual Strong Girls, Strong Women that is a life changing experience for the over 500 attendees. They are instrumental in planning the Domestic Violence Conference. Because of their expertise on Domestic Violence, they have produced brochures and resource guides, planned conferences, reviewed County handbooks, and provided trainings on domestic violence. They produce an impressive, well regarded, and well researched State of Women & Girls’ report. They have also done a stellar job staffing the Human Trafficking Commission which delegates to the OWP the convening of work groups which have produced a human trafficking video and brochures and facilitated trainings of over 1000 VTA employees and numerous code enforcement, environmental health, firefighters, and community health workers on the red flags of human trafficking. They have provided research, solicited testimony from experts,and interfaced with stakeholders. They are working on a public awareness campaign, data collection, and critical supply chain issues. In addition, they have worked collaboratively with community organizations to hold successful and extremely well attended trainings on human trafficking, health and safety, workers’ rights, immigration, public benefits, and equal pay that would never have reached such a wide audience without them. Without them, the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Report would not have been printed, publicized, and disseminated as widely as it was. They are founding members of the extremely successful Bay Area Equal Pay Collaborative. They convene and facilitate monthly meetings, trainings, and events, and they (especially Esther Peralez-Dieckmann) are considered invaluable by the federal and state agencies and organizations that comprise the collaborative including the Department of Labor (OFCCP and Women’s Bureau), the EEOC, Equal Rights Advocates, Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, Alexander Community Law Center, 9 to 5, and AAUW. They play, arguably, the most active role in the collaborative. They work with the Coalition on Equal Pay to conduct trainings in the schools on the wage gap and women’s issues. They partner with the Commission on the Status of Women to produce the impressive Women’s Equality Day program and luncheon with its consistently outstanding speakers. They created an Equal Pay Tool Kit, held equal pay workshops and Start Smart trainings on salary negotiations for women, and monitor contracts and grants to organizations that promote women and girls and make a difference in the lives of low income, immigrant families. This litany of accomplishments is only a very small part of their multiple accomplishments, and only the ones of which I am aware. I and countless other women and men have the utmost respect for OWP, for its accomplishments, for the quality of its work, and for its tireless efforts to improve the life of women and girls in this County. The Human Relations Commission does excellent work, but there is no way that the Human Relations Commission could do OWP’s work for free as you state. I have personally heard County Counsel, County Supervisors, people at all levels in federal agencies, city officials, and community members speak highly of OWP and its accomplishments, and this praise is well deserved.

      • It’s important to distinguish activity from accomplishment. Exactly what has OWP has accomplished? Their website fails to delineate tangible outcomes, nor do I find any elsewhere. Why can’t little to no tangible accomplishments can’t be done at lower cost?

        By contrast: SJ’s IPA investigates and publishes reports about SJPD complaints, has effected changes to the Duty Manual and training, and measured their outreach impact. Despite what one thinks about former IPA head Cordell, she provided tangible performance measures – unlike OWP.

        If OWP were nuked tomorrow, what adverse consequences should we expect? No Women’s Equity Day luncheon with outstanding speakers? No Equal pay Took Kit (note: not listed in OWP’s Publications or Resources)?

        * No Women’s jail monitoring report? Conducted by the BOS Commission on the Status of Women – not OWP (although they appear to claim some credit for it & Peralez-Dieckmann listed as monitor).

        * No Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) report? Nope, done by Community Solutions though again included on OWP’s site.

        * No Start Smart training? Don’t find it on OWP’s site.

        * No Wage Theft Report? Nope – conducted in 2013 by Wage Theft Coalition.

        * No 2014 Woman of the Year award for Peralez-Dieckmann? Sounds impressive until one checks the source: Nora Campos. Made me laugh out loud.

        It’s important to decide when an entity deserves to be dissolved or expanded. Maybe OWP merits 8 employees, not 4. Without goals, objectives, and associated accomplishments, we have no rational basis for intelligent funding or policy decisions. All I see is self-aggrandizment, posting others’ work, and staffing an all-women department of 4 employees to do it.

        Happy to be disabused with cost-effective tangible accomplishments and facts – not emotional assertions masquerading as justification.

  2. Does any have a specific example from the last 10 years were a man and a woman with comparable experience and length of time doing a job are paid significantly different amounts for their labor?

    Maybe as naive union thug I haven’t been exposed to such injustice. How can such a problem exist in the enlightened private sector? Shareholders (pension plans) must lose big dollars that contribute to unfunded liabilities when companies have to pay or otherwise settle lawsuits…

    • I don’t believe it’s as simple as ‘equal pay for equal work’. Certain professions are gender disproportionate: Most teachers are women; up until two weeks ago, all Army Rangers were men; most engineers are men.

      The slippery slope that I see is someone deciding that market forces result in gender & wage discrimination. And then asserting that the training and labor of say a $130K / year engineer is equivalent to a $58K / year teacher. To end this discrimination, social justice demands that we must pay teachers $130K / year.

      BTW, NPR reported a few weeks ago that the gender gap among teachers is growing. Fewer men entering and leaving sooner than women.

  3. Gov. Brown has never held a job in the private sector, and he certainly never had to meet a payroll. But he certainly knows how to pander. He’s about the best there is at that.

    The article says: Today, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns

    So they are still perpetuating that old canard. Could the fact that women give birth, and men don’t, have anything to do with it? Or the fact that there are still lots of stay at home moms, who believe it’s more important to watch over their kids than go to work?

    They say figures don’t lie, but liars figure. That is apparent throughout this article. The hand-wringing over the lack of women software engineers ignores the overwhelming preponderance of women in careers like nursing and teaching. There is actually very little difference in pay for the same job after age 40, when women, and especially professional women, close the pay gap with men doing the same job.

    I worked at a large corporation for 30 years, and whenever a job opening came up the company tended to select a woman over a man when both were equally qualified. The company just did not need the grief and headaches that would result from favoring men. So the women actually had a pay and promotion advantage.

    There will always be disparities for one reason or another. I have no doubt that in a few instances, a troglodyte boss will always give the male employee preference. But that is the rare exception, not the rule. Any business that passed over one sex (not “gender”!) for another, simply based on their sex and nothing else, is practicing very bad management. Attitudes like that are punished in the marketplace, by the competition. The overwhelming majority of companies give preference to the person best qualified for the position.

    The government just loves to micro-manage and socially engineer this sort of issue, when it should butt out. If a truly well qualified woman is passed over, she will be hired elsewhere. There are many companies that are on the lookout for talented employees. Gov. Brown’s pandering is government interference in a system that normally rewards skill, education, and experience in the job. As usual, this new law will be a tool used by those who can’t make it on their own to bludgeon their employer — and to bypass others who may be better qualified. It is not needed by women who have educated themselves, and who truly are better qualified.

    Like “Taxpayer”, I cannot see the reasons for, or any legitimate justification for an “Office of Women’s Policy”. Ms. Esther Peralez-Dickmann is in charge of that particular bureaucracy. I would be interested in seeing her pay and benefit package. It would be great fun challenging her to go out into the real business world, apply for a job with comparable pay and benefits, and see how she does.

    But of course, that will never happen. Jobs like hers are patronage, given to supporters based on politics, not on their ability. Naturally she will raise her voice on behalf of the putative downtrodden — because truth be told, she probably sees herself there if she had not lucked out and been appointed.

    When Gov. Brown signs this new law, it will be another brick in the wall making America that much less competitive. By itself maybe it’s no big deal. But after forty plus years of rewarding people for things other than their skill and accomplishments, is it any surprise that one-half of all Americans are now on the dole?

  4. Salary secrecy rules need to go. Such a rule is positively medieval. It’s unfortunate that it has taken legislation for this to occur. Equal pay for equal work as between men and women should be the rule. It’s unfortunate that it has taken legislation for this to occur. My former wife was one of the successful named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Bank of America in the late 1960’s. The bank settled because it was proven that women with master’s degrees were being paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees to do the same job. This new legislation won’t be much help though if it contains words like “substantially similar work.” That phrase or ones like it will make this new law nothing more than a full employment act for lawyers, both plaintiff and defense, and spawn litigation rather than true equality. As for the racially charged statistic that Latino women earn less than all men, well DUH! A high percentage of Latina women work as housecleaners, nannies, and janitorial workers who clean office buildings. The proponents of that statistic are comparing apples to tomatoes. The only relevant comparison is the pay for Latina workers in those fields versus the pay for non-Latina workers in those fields. They should be equal. There aren’t a lot of Latina C-level employees, or engineers, or lab technicians. The only thing that will close the “wage gap between men and women” is having parity between men and women with respect to the jobs that each group holds. That requires women to seek and obtain employment in more highly paid jobs. That will take decades. There is no magic wand that will create more women engineers, for instance. Closing the gap between what men and women are paid for THE SAME WORK can be accomplished far more quickly. Eliminating salary secrecy rules is the first step.

    • There is a currently running TV ad for a car company with the tag line:

      “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.

      This is fundamentally why the progressive/tribalist obsession with “fairness” and “equality” is doomed to ultimate frustration.

      Everyone is unique. Everyone’s situation is unique. My parents were nicer than your parents. Your colleagues in law school may have thought your mismatched eye colors made you look shifty and unprofessional, and fostered the expectation that you would be a failure as a lawyer. My parents recognized that I loved animals and pushed me into a job in a meatpacking plant.

      We’ve all had different experiences which shape our values, our perceptions, our priorities, and the way we do our jobs.

      Attitude and outlook are enormously significant in HOW someone does a job, and WILL cause two people to do the same job differently no matter how microscopically specified.

      A sales manager for one of my employers had a very illustrative anecdote:

      “The CEO of a shoe company heard of a remote Pacific Island where the natives did not have shoes. He dispatched a salesman.

      Several weeks later, the CEO received a telegram from the salesman: Returning home. No one here wears shoes’.

      The CEO was undeterred. He dispatched another salesman.

      A week later, the CEO received a telegram from the second salesman: ‘Opportunity unlimited! No one here has shoes. Send more salesmen!'”

      Would a rational business pay the two salesmen the same?

      I guarantee that if the second salesman were a woman she would be earning a lot more.

      What is the government achieving by requiring that they be paid the same?

      A. Overpaying drones.
      B. Underpaying achievers.
      C. Both A and B

    • “Eliminating salary secrecy rules is the first step” But not necessarily the easiest or most sensible.

      Let’s begin by asking, “Where is the problem?” Probably not much in publicly-traded companies with HR departments that scrupulously monitor wage bias. Probably not much in unionized businesses either.

      Maybe in smaller, privately held companies. Maybe among independent contractors such as taxi drivers, but unclear that such laws would apply those that hire independent contractors.

      Why not start with understanding,vetting, and quantifying accusations before proposing corrective action?

  5. Naïve taxpayer opined: “Where is the problem?” Probably not much in publicly-traded companies with HR departments that scrupulously monitor wage bias.” Scrupulously monitoring wage bias? Are you serious? If so, I own a bridge I can sell you…cheap. It crosses The East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn. As a group, publicly traded companies don’t even scrupulously monitor sexual discrimination claims. Thus the large number of lawyers making money off lawsuits alleging such discrimination.
    “Probably not much in unionized businesses either.” A mere 6.6% of the private sector work force is unionized and total union membership nationwide, including the public sector, is a mere 16.2 million employees. The tail is NOT wagging the dog.
    It must be nice living in your ivory tower.

    • > Naïve taxpayer opined: “Where is the problem?”

      And Naive taxpayer asked the right question.

      JMO’s response quibbled over the mechanics of monitoring “wage bias” and other wool gathering, but WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?

      Is the problem that primitive tribalists are genetically programmed to accept that their tribe is their destiny, their shaman talks to the spirits, and the spirits tell him what is “fair”?

      The only way to approach real “fairness” is to make everyone equally poor and equally miserable.

      The moment the first tribesmen pushed the first weakling out of the way to get two bites of the wooly mammoth is the moment “unfariness” began, and there has been no turning back.

      The pursuit of unfairness is ultimately the pursuit of a society where the standard of existence is set by the least capable and the least motivated.

      Even the second worst president in U.S. history, Jimmy Carter, recognized this: “Life is unfair’.

      Expecting corporate HR departments, unions, or government bureaucrats to deliver fairness is a mindset that is contrary to modern civilization.

      Creating abundance is fundamentally dependent on motivating people to over produce. Motivating people is dependent on incentives, Incentives drive people in their individual quest for UNFAIR, UNEQUAL rewards.

      “Fairness” is just primitivism.

    • Seems as if the number of supported gender wage claims is relatively low. About 10% have been sustained since 2003 per CNN.

      “In 2003, when the Wal-Mart litigation was in its preliminary court stages, about 27,000 sex discrimination claims nationwide were resolved administratively by the EEOC, little changed from the prior decade. More than 57 percent — 15,000 claims — were ruled administratively to have “no reasonable cause,” and those usually were dismissed.
      Just over 10 percent were judged to have merit, resulting in a total of $94.2 million in settlements, or $34,200 on average per case, according to the data, which include all such claims, not just those involving Wal-Mart.”

      In my experience with F100 companies, HR does monitor. And commonly use salary consultants such as Hay as well. No one gets it right 100% and some settle because it’s cheaper than litigation. Others, like Kleiner decide their reputation is more important as Ellen Pao discovered to her dismay.

      While we may have a serious issue with gender wage equality, I haven’t seen data that supports what legislation will be effective, nor how much it will cost to administer. If the problem isn’t quantified and basis determined, then remedial actions seem reckless.

      • > If the problem isn’t quantified and basis determined, then remedial actions seem reckless.


        And even more true of “global warming”.

        It;s hard to conceive of anything more reckless than lunkheads like Al Gore, Jerry Brown, and certain prominent religious leaders trying to “fix” global warming.

        They can’t even get the number of polar bears right, and they’ve decided they know what the correct sea level should be a hundred years from now?

        What if they lower the sea level too much? People will be able to do their whale watching by hiking to the Farallons, or to Hawaii. That will kill a lot of coral reefs.

        “Oooops. My bad”.

        • SJOUTSIDE,

          Good analogy. The man-made global warming (MMGW) scare is nothing more than a hoax at this point; a scam on the taxpaying public. There has been no global warming for almost twenty years now, but Gov. Moonbeam is doubling down, demanding that California must shoot itself in the foot by hobbling our economy over what has turned out to be a complete non-problem.

          And these same jamokes think they know how to run a business better than people in business? Gov. Brown has never held a real job (ie: outside of gov’t). But Brown believes he can determine what an employee is worth to an employer? The only real skill Gov. Brown has is his skill in getting elected. Can you think of anything else he’s good at?

          The government has no business micromanaging businesses. It’s not in their remit (the Constitution); it is just pandering to an aggrieved segment of the population. They don’t want to hear it, but if some women ‘feel’ they are underpaid, the answer is simple: MovOn. As the U.S. Army says: “Suck it up”. If you’re really worth more, an employer will pay it.

          Instead, we have more ‘us against them’ tribalism. The few relatively unhappy women who make most of the noise observe that pandering pays off with the governor. But truth be told, if they aren’t making what they feel they deserve now, they won’t be happy with a different employer, either. And if they get legislation passed to artificially raise their pay, employers have plenty of ways to handle that, by diverting them into jobs of no consequence, etc.

          Then what will they do? Demand that the government must micromanage that situation? We are in an interconnected business world today. American businesses must compete with similar businesses all over the world, and every time legislation is passed that hobbles a business, it makes American businesses less competitive. This proposed legislation won’t destroy American businesses. But it hurts our competitiveness, and the cumulative effect of all these ‘feel good’ laws is definitely negative. It’s really just another form of political correctness. We definitely don’t need any more of that.

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