Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/gender 2017-12-17T19:21:58+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff 2017-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7205:at-the-city-council-better-gender-balance-among-chiefs-of-staff Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/aya_keefe_and_cm_mark_levine_crop.jpg" alt="aya keefe and cm mark levine crop" width="600" height="425" /></p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine &amp; his Chief of Staff, Aya Keefe (photo: Levine's office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council, a 51-member body, currently includes only 13 women, down from 18 in 2009, and that number is likely to soon fall to 12 when the next Council is seated in January, if this year’s elections continue as expected. There has been widespread recent attention given to the City Council gender imbalance, in part because the Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the subject, and there are efforts underway to improve female representation in the Council through future elections.</p> <p>But, at one level at least, the Council is faring much better in gender balance. Of the 50 sitting Council members, 24 have women serving as their chiefs of staff, the highest ranking aide, buoying hopes among members, aides, and advocates that these positions can serve to further the political careers of numerous qualified and experienced women in city government. For men and women alike, being a top aide to a City Council member is often a path to elected office, as evidence by the victory in last Tuesday’s primary election by Diana Ayala, the former deputy chief of staff to outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited.</p> <p>Ayala, seen as an underdog against sitting Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, secured a narrow victory in the primary, with Mark-Viverito’s help, and is expected to easily win the general election in November.</p> <p>Chiefs of staff play vital roles in Council members’ offices, overseeing their legislative headquarters near City Hall and their local district offices where staffers provide constituent services. It’a role that involves liaising with other Council members’ staff, advocates, and others, and can require a working knowledge of priorities and policy proposals of nearly the entire Council. Most significantly, it can serve as a foundation for political careers. Many Council staffers, particularly chiefs of staff, go on to run for elected office, often to fill seats left vacant when their bosses are either term-limited or leave office for other reasons.</p> <p>“As the saying goes, ‘If you wanna get something done, ask a woman to do it,’” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who is co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus and whose chief of staff is a woman, in a phone interview from a restaurant. “Women are awesome, dynamic multitaskers,” Cumbo said, chuckling that she was talking to a reporter, ordering food and breastfeeding at the same time. Cumbo was pregnant on the campaign trail as she ran for reelection, and recently gave birth to her son. She won a tough primary battle on September 12 and is expected to easily beat two opponents on November 7.</p> <p>Cumbo stressed that the role of a chief of staff involves “really wearing multiple hats at the same time,” being able to understand the issues a Council member is focused on and being able to troubleshoot problems before they arise. And, as much as she said she hates stereotypes, “Women are able to do that well,” Cumbo said.</p> <p>In a city government so heavily dominated by men -- the mayor, the comptroller and most of the City Council are men, while the public advocate is Letitia James, the first woman of color to hold citywide office -- having women serve in top positions helps inform policy and the legislative process, Cumbo said. And chiefs of staff bring that valuable perspective to the table. “I think it’s something that happens by nature, because of staffers eating, breathing, and sleeping this work,” she said.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the second woman and first Latina to hold that powerful seat, has made it a future priority to increase the number of women elected to the City Council. She is spearheading the “21 in ’21” movement, which aims to elect 21 women in 2021, when more than 30 Council seats will be up for grabs along with incumbents seeking reelection. The speaker also launched the Young Women’s Initiative to provide enhanced services to girls and women, particularly those of color, between the ages of 12 and 24.</p> <p>Monica Abend, Cumbo’s chief of staff, said her position gives her the opportunity to “participate in contributing ideas to legislation, to policy and contributing to progressive legislation for a progressive city that is a frontrunner in many of those policy areas.”</p> <p>“To be able to wear that chief of staff role positions you in a wonderful arena to understand local government,” she said. It’s on-the-job training in the legislative process and in understanding how the city changes at the local level, she said. “While our communities change on a constant basis, a lot of the work stays the same,” she added.</p> <p>Abend doesn’t envision running for office any time soon but she did agree that working for a Council member provides the skills to do so. “Maybe one day in the future,” she said.</p> <p>Under the de Blasio administration and the largely progressive City Council, led by Mark-Viverito, the city has increased its focus on issues of gender equity. The mayor established the Commission on Gender Equity in 2015 through an executive order, and also banned city agencies from inquiring about salary history, a step towards ensuring pay equity for women.</p> <p>The Council has passed and the mayor has signed numerous bills related to empowering and aiding women across all walks of life. These include legislation to enhance support for caregivers, who are largely immigrant women of color; establishing public lactation stations; increasing access to feminine hygiene products in shelters, jails and schools; improving contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses; enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence; among other measures. A bill from Public Advocate James to ban inquiries about salary history in the private sector was passed and signed earlier this year.</p> <p>The Women’s Caucus also released <a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Final-Womens-Caucus-Making-It-Here-Report-Web.pdf?siteplayer=true&amp;dl=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its report</a> last month that examines the cultural and institutional barriers to women’s representation in New York politics.</p> <p>“I think that the City Council is really a great place for women to work and take on leadership positions and express themselves, and advocate for policies that benefit all New Yorkers,” said Aya Keefe, chief of staff to Council Member Mark Levine. She noted that Levine’s director of constituent services and budget and legislative director are also women. “It’s a powerful statement for our office,” she said. “We’re very much a partnership-driven office. There’s a strong female style of management, not necessarily being hierarchical but collaborative. And that works really well on legislation. Ultimately, you have to bring a lot of interests to the table and women are uniquely positioned to do that.”</p> <p>Keefe personally has no intention of running for office, she said. “But I definitely think that chief of staff gives you great insight into the ins and outs of working in government,” she said. She also noted, as did others, that there should be a push to translate the gender balance at the staff level into elected positions.</p> <p>Alexis Grenell, a Democratic political consultant and writer on gender issues, cautioned against being overly celebratory about the number of women chiefs of staff, saying it meets the “baseline expectation” since women represent half the population. “Women make up more than 50 percent of many graduate degree programs, making them arguably more qualified than their male counterparts,” she said.</p> <p>She argued that it’s more important for women to receive support in their aspirations for elected office, pointing to the “crisis in women’s leadership” in the City Council, where the next speaker is likely to be a man for the first time in 12 years. “Empirical data shows that gender balance directly results in better outcomes,” she said. “This is true for corporate boards, and for legislation. That is undeniably the case.”</p> <p>She did agree that chief of staff is a pipeline to the Council, with outgoing Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland being a prominent example. She also pointed to two Council staffers -- Ayala and Carlina Rivera -- who ran for City Council this year to replace the term-limited Council members who they worked for. Ayala was deputy chief of staff to Mark-Viverito before leaving to run for the speaker’s seat in District 8. Rivera, who served as legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez, handily won the primary for Mendez’s District 2 seat on the Lower East Side. “These are women who served in the Council for two terms and backed their staffers to replace them,” Grenell said, in the hope that other Council members do the same for their own staff.</p> <p>While Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to seek another term due to family considerations and a move to another state, is being replaced by a man, term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy will be replaced by a woman, Alicka Samuel, who won a crowded primary in District 41. And while term-limited Annabel Palma is being replaced by a man, Adrienne Adams won the competitive primary to replace Ruben Wills, who had recently vacated the seat due to a corruption charge.</p> <p>Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York, also hoped that the Council’s “abysmal” record of women’s representation would improve. “The good news is that while there are less than 25 percent of women in the City Council, a 50 percent rate of women chiefs of staff says to me that there’s a lot of potential,” she said. “They know the community well, they know the job.”</p> <p>She agreed that women add a diversity of opinion that is necessary for good policy. “But we need a representation of leaders that reflects our community,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, whose chief of staff is also a woman, said the numbers were “heartening” but was cautious of drawing any conclusions. “I think that sounds normal to me,” she said of the nearly 50 percent representation. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect in what people are submitting legislation about or doing in their districts.”</p> <p>“To the extent that there aren’t barriers to having chiefs of staff, it is an equalizer,” she acknowledged. But she wondered about the larger questions it raises about the entire city government. She also recognized that the Council as a body should perhaps do more to support women. “Should we have a daycare?” she said, for instance. “I think that’s something we should talk about.”</p> <p>Council staffers also don’t have set pay ranges with titles, so it’s hard to gauge whether there is pay parity across the Council. “It’s not something I’ve explored,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great question. Every Council member has their own fiefdom. Council members can choose to pay staff whatever they want. We’re not given a range and perhaps we should.”</p> <p>“I’m lucky to have strong women leadership in the office and I benefit from it every day,” said Council Member Levine. “I think we certainly strive to be accommodating to women,” he said of the City Council, adding that he would support extending maternity leave. “We can do more,” he said, “there’s no doubt about it.”</p> <p>Keefe, Levine’s chief of staff, also said the Council should do more to accommodate women. “I think we should have a better maternity leave policy, that sets the example for businesses and nonprofits across the city,” she said. She did note that when she gave birth last year, she received three months leave, but that that isn’t the standard policy across the Council.</p> <p>Abend, from Cumbo’s office, said, “There’s always room for improvement,” but insisted that “this has been an incredible time to be a woman in local city government.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/aya_keefe_and_cm_mark_levine_crop.jpg" alt="aya keefe and cm mark levine crop" width="600" height="425" /></p> <p>Council Member Mark Levine &amp; his Chief of Staff, Aya Keefe (photo: Levine's office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council, a 51-member body, currently includes only 13 women, down from 18 in 2009, and that number is likely to soon fall to 12 when the next Council is seated in January, if this year’s elections continue as expected. There has been widespread recent attention given to the City Council gender imbalance, in part because the Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the subject, and there are efforts underway to improve female representation in the Council through future elections.</p> <p>But, at one level at least, the Council is faring much better in gender balance. Of the 50 sitting Council members, 24 have women serving as their chiefs of staff, the highest ranking aide, buoying hopes among members, aides, and advocates that these positions can serve to further the political careers of numerous qualified and experienced women in city government. For men and women alike, being a top aide to a City Council member is often a path to elected office, as evidence by the victory in last Tuesday’s primary election by Diana Ayala, the former deputy chief of staff to outgoing City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited.</p> <p>Ayala, seen as an underdog against sitting Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, secured a narrow victory in the primary, with Mark-Viverito’s help, and is expected to easily win the general election in November.</p> <p>Chiefs of staff play vital roles in Council members’ offices, overseeing their legislative headquarters near City Hall and their local district offices where staffers provide constituent services. It’a role that involves liaising with other Council members’ staff, advocates, and others, and can require a working knowledge of priorities and policy proposals of nearly the entire Council. Most significantly, it can serve as a foundation for political careers. Many Council staffers, particularly chiefs of staff, go on to run for elected office, often to fill seats left vacant when their bosses are either term-limited or leave office for other reasons.</p> <p>“As the saying goes, ‘If you wanna get something done, ask a woman to do it,’” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who is co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus and whose chief of staff is a woman, in a phone interview from a restaurant. “Women are awesome, dynamic multitaskers,” Cumbo said, chuckling that she was talking to a reporter, ordering food and breastfeeding at the same time. Cumbo was pregnant on the campaign trail as she ran for reelection, and recently gave birth to her son. She won a tough primary battle on September 12 and is expected to easily beat two opponents on November 7.</p> <p>Cumbo stressed that the role of a chief of staff involves “really wearing multiple hats at the same time,” being able to understand the issues a Council member is focused on and being able to troubleshoot problems before they arise. And, as much as she said she hates stereotypes, “Women are able to do that well,” Cumbo said.</p> <p>In a city government so heavily dominated by men -- the mayor, the comptroller and most of the City Council are men, while the public advocate is Letitia James, the first woman of color to hold citywide office -- having women serve in top positions helps inform policy and the legislative process, Cumbo said. And chiefs of staff bring that valuable perspective to the table. “I think it’s something that happens by nature, because of staffers eating, breathing, and sleeping this work,” she said.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the second woman and first Latina to hold that powerful seat, has made it a future priority to increase the number of women elected to the City Council. She is spearheading the “21 in ’21” movement, which aims to elect 21 women in 2021, when more than 30 Council seats will be up for grabs along with incumbents seeking reelection. The speaker also launched the Young Women’s Initiative to provide enhanced services to girls and women, particularly those of color, between the ages of 12 and 24.</p> <p>Monica Abend, Cumbo’s chief of staff, said her position gives her the opportunity to “participate in contributing ideas to legislation, to policy and contributing to progressive legislation for a progressive city that is a frontrunner in many of those policy areas.”</p> <p>“To be able to wear that chief of staff role positions you in a wonderful arena to understand local government,” she said. It’s on-the-job training in the legislative process and in understanding how the city changes at the local level, she said. “While our communities change on a constant basis, a lot of the work stays the same,” she added.</p> <p>Abend doesn’t envision running for office any time soon but she did agree that working for a Council member provides the skills to do so. “Maybe one day in the future,” she said.</p> <p>Under the de Blasio administration and the largely progressive City Council, led by Mark-Viverito, the city has increased its focus on issues of gender equity. The mayor established the Commission on Gender Equity in 2015 through an executive order, and also banned city agencies from inquiring about salary history, a step towards ensuring pay equity for women.</p> <p>The Council has passed and the mayor has signed numerous bills related to empowering and aiding women across all walks of life. These include legislation to enhance support for caregivers, who are largely immigrant women of color; establishing public lactation stations; increasing access to feminine hygiene products in shelters, jails and schools; improving contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses; enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence; among other measures. A bill from Public Advocate James to ban inquiries about salary history in the private sector was passed and signed earlier this year.</p> <p>The Women’s Caucus also released <a href="http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Final-Womens-Caucus-Making-It-Here-Report-Web.pdf?siteplayer=true&amp;dl=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">its report</a> last month that examines the cultural and institutional barriers to women’s representation in New York politics.</p> <p>“I think that the City Council is really a great place for women to work and take on leadership positions and express themselves, and advocate for policies that benefit all New Yorkers,” said Aya Keefe, chief of staff to Council Member Mark Levine. She noted that Levine’s director of constituent services and budget and legislative director are also women. “It’s a powerful statement for our office,” she said. “We’re very much a partnership-driven office. There’s a strong female style of management, not necessarily being hierarchical but collaborative. And that works really well on legislation. Ultimately, you have to bring a lot of interests to the table and women are uniquely positioned to do that.”</p> <p>Keefe personally has no intention of running for office, she said. “But I definitely think that chief of staff gives you great insight into the ins and outs of working in government,” she said. She also noted, as did others, that there should be a push to translate the gender balance at the staff level into elected positions.</p> <p>Alexis Grenell, a Democratic political consultant and writer on gender issues, cautioned against being overly celebratory about the number of women chiefs of staff, saying it meets the “baseline expectation” since women represent half the population. “Women make up more than 50 percent of many graduate degree programs, making them arguably more qualified than their male counterparts,” she said.</p> <p>She argued that it’s more important for women to receive support in their aspirations for elected office, pointing to the “crisis in women’s leadership” in the City Council, where the next speaker is likely to be a man for the first time in 12 years. “Empirical data shows that gender balance directly results in better outcomes,” she said. “This is true for corporate boards, and for legislation. That is undeniably the case.”</p> <p>She did agree that chief of staff is a pipeline to the Council, with outgoing Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland being a prominent example. She also pointed to two Council staffers -- Ayala and Carlina Rivera -- who ran for City Council this year to replace the term-limited Council members who they worked for. Ayala was deputy chief of staff to Mark-Viverito before leaving to run for the speaker’s seat in District 8. Rivera, who served as legislative director to outgoing Council Member Rosie Mendez, handily won the primary for Mendez’s District 2 seat on the Lower East Side. “These are women who served in the Council for two terms and backed their staffers to replace them,” Grenell said, in the hope that other Council members do the same for their own staff.</p> <p>While Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to seek another term due to family considerations and a move to another state, is being replaced by a man, term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy will be replaced by a woman, Alicka Samuel, who won a crowded primary in District 41. And while term-limited Annabel Palma is being replaced by a man, Adrienne Adams won the competitive primary to replace Ruben Wills, who had recently vacated the seat due to a corruption charge.</p> <p>Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women of New York, also hoped that the Council’s “abysmal” record of women’s representation would improve. “The good news is that while there are less than 25 percent of women in the City Council, a 50 percent rate of women chiefs of staff says to me that there’s a lot of potential,” she said. “They know the community well, they know the job.”</p> <p>She agreed that women add a diversity of opinion that is necessary for good policy. “But we need a representation of leaders that reflects our community,” she said.</p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, whose chief of staff is also a woman, said the numbers were “heartening” but was cautious of drawing any conclusions. “I think that sounds normal to me,” she said of the nearly 50 percent representation. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect in what people are submitting legislation about or doing in their districts.”</p> <p>“To the extent that there aren’t barriers to having chiefs of staff, it is an equalizer,” she acknowledged. But she wondered about the larger questions it raises about the entire city government. She also recognized that the Council as a body should perhaps do more to support women. “Should we have a daycare?” she said, for instance. “I think that’s something we should talk about.”</p> <p>Council staffers also don’t have set pay ranges with titles, so it’s hard to gauge whether there is pay parity across the Council. “It’s not something I’ve explored,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a great question. Every Council member has their own fiefdom. Council members can choose to pay staff whatever they want. We’re not given a range and perhaps we should.”</p> <p>“I’m lucky to have strong women leadership in the office and I benefit from it every day,” said Council Member Levine. “I think we certainly strive to be accommodating to women,” he said of the City Council, adding that he would support extending maternity leave. “We can do more,” he said, “there’s no doubt about it.”</p> <p>Keefe, Levine’s chief of staff, also said the Council should do more to accommodate women. “I think we should have a better maternity leave policy, that sets the example for businesses and nonprofits across the city,” she said. She did note that when she gave birth last year, she received three months leave, but that that isn’t the standard policy across the Council.</p> <p>Abend, from Cumbo’s office, said, “There’s always room for improvement,” but insisted that “this has been an incredible time to be a woman in local city government.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Toward Progress on Equal Pay Day 2016-04-12T04:19:41+00:00 2016-04-12T04:19:41+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6275:toward-progress-on-equal-pay-day Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/womens_caucus_council.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="womens caucus council" /></p> <p>The City Council Women's Caucus, including two authors (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Today - Tuesday, April 12 - New York City recognizes Equal Pay Day – a day to confront the challenges our mothers, daughters, and sisters still face in achieving workplace equality.</p> <p>Significant progress has been made, but substantial discrepancies exist between women and men – most notably, a sizable wage gap. As of 2013, women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, with a median income over 27 percent lower than that of men. For women of color, the pay gap widens: black and Hispanic women earn 64 and 56 cents on the dollar, respectively. Stretched over a lifetime of work, this leaves women with much less money than the average man.</p> <p>At S&amp;P Fortune 500 companies, women hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions and only 16 percent of board seats. When women are top earners, the pay gap tends to close at a faster pace. But disappointingly, the numbers show that women are vastly underrepresented in these higher-level positions, resulting in a persistent pay gap and lack of diversity in board rooms big and small.</p> <p>Yet, women are more educated and prepared for the workforce than ever before. Women now account for nearly 60 percent of annual four-year university graduates, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates being awarded in the United States.</p> <p>Though the longstanding pay gap is an undeniable social injustice; it amounts to much more, and is actually hurting corporate bottom lines.</p> <p>Study after study, particularly those from Catalyst, the global expert on accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion, has stated that when women hold leadership or board positions, it improves company financial performance, economic growth, productivity, and profitability. This makes it crystal clear that business is better and companies perform most effectively when they bring equal opportunity, allowing everyone a seat at the table.</p> <p>The City of New York, as the global center of business and commerce, and proprietor of billions in private contracts, can play an important role in promoting the levels of diversity we need in the 21st century. Let’s make sure we get the best value for our own tax dollars, and promote businesses that promote equal opportunity.</p> <p>Last week, the City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6271-council-passes-bill-to-improve-diversity-at-upper-levels-of-city-contracted-businesses" target="_blank">voted and passed Introduction 704-A</a>, a bill we sponsored to gather more information on the gender and racial makeup of the individuals who make up executive-level staff and boards of companies that do business with the City. Once signed into law, it will require the Department of Small Business Services to survey companies that do business with the City and obtain the demographics of companies’ executive-level staff and board members.</p> <p>In 2015, the City procured $13.8 billion worth of goods and services through more than 60,000 transactions, yet we do not know who is running the companies that are conducting this business. Our new law will provide the City with the data it needs to ensure that city-contracted companies are promoting the diversity that makes this City so great, and could ultimately boost the economy.</p> <p>It’s a small step that we believe will go a long way to help our City recognize inequities in our own front yard and create incentives for businesses throughout New York to promote diversity in their top ranks.</p> <p>We hope you will all join us today in the fight for equal opportunity, equal pay, and a New York City where everyone can succeed.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Crowley and Darlene Mealy are New York City Council Members; Deborah Gillis is President &amp; CEO of Catalyst.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/womens_caucus_council.jpg" width="600" height="400" alt="womens caucus council" /></p> <p>The City Council Women's Caucus, including two authors (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Today - Tuesday, April 12 - New York City recognizes Equal Pay Day – a day to confront the challenges our mothers, daughters, and sisters still face in achieving workplace equality.</p> <p>Significant progress has been made, but substantial discrepancies exist between women and men – most notably, a sizable wage gap. As of 2013, women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, with a median income over 27 percent lower than that of men. For women of color, the pay gap widens: black and Hispanic women earn 64 and 56 cents on the dollar, respectively. Stretched over a lifetime of work, this leaves women with much less money than the average man.</p> <p>At S&amp;P Fortune 500 companies, women hold less than 5 percent of CEO positions and only 16 percent of board seats. When women are top earners, the pay gap tends to close at a faster pace. But disappointingly, the numbers show that women are vastly underrepresented in these higher-level positions, resulting in a persistent pay gap and lack of diversity in board rooms big and small.</p> <p>Yet, women are more educated and prepared for the workforce than ever before. Women now account for nearly 60 percent of annual four-year university graduates, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates being awarded in the United States.</p> <p>Though the longstanding pay gap is an undeniable social injustice; it amounts to much more, and is actually hurting corporate bottom lines.</p> <p>Study after study, particularly those from Catalyst, the global expert on accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion, has stated that when women hold leadership or board positions, it improves company financial performance, economic growth, productivity, and profitability. This makes it crystal clear that business is better and companies perform most effectively when they bring equal opportunity, allowing everyone a seat at the table.</p> <p>The City of New York, as the global center of business and commerce, and proprietor of billions in private contracts, can play an important role in promoting the levels of diversity we need in the 21st century. Let’s make sure we get the best value for our own tax dollars, and promote businesses that promote equal opportunity.</p> <p>Last week, the City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6271-council-passes-bill-to-improve-diversity-at-upper-levels-of-city-contracted-businesses" target="_blank">voted and passed Introduction 704-A</a>, a bill we sponsored to gather more information on the gender and racial makeup of the individuals who make up executive-level staff and boards of companies that do business with the City. Once signed into law, it will require the Department of Small Business Services to survey companies that do business with the City and obtain the demographics of companies’ executive-level staff and board members.</p> <p>In 2015, the City procured $13.8 billion worth of goods and services through more than 60,000 transactions, yet we do not know who is running the companies that are conducting this business. Our new law will provide the City with the data it needs to ensure that city-contracted companies are promoting the diversity that makes this City so great, and could ultimately boost the economy.</p> <p>It’s a small step that we believe will go a long way to help our City recognize inequities in our own front yard and create incentives for businesses throughout New York to promote diversity in their top ranks.</p> <p>We hope you will all join us today in the fight for equal opportunity, equal pay, and a New York City where everyone can succeed.</p> <p>***<br />Elizabeth Crowley and Darlene Mealy are New York City Council Members; Deborah Gillis is President &amp; CEO of Catalyst.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Resignation Highlights City Council Gender Imbalance 2015-12-09T00:02:19+00:00 2015-12-09T00:02:19+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6024:resignation-highlights-city-council-gender-imbalance Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/MMV_alatriste_young_womens_initiative.png" alt="MMV alatriste young womens initiative" width="600" height="343" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Speaker Mark-Viverito &amp; others announce Young Women's Initiative (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo recently announced she will resign at the end of the year in order to attend to family matters. In vacating her seat, which she has held since 2005, Arroyo creates uncertainty about who will represent her Bronx district, but also brings to the forefront a larger issue about political representation in New York City: the number of women in the City Council.</p> <p>The 51-member City Council currently consists of 15 women and 36 men. While the Speaker of the Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and chair of the powerful Finance Committee, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, are both women, it is clear that the Council is not nearly representative of the general public when it comes to gender.</p> <p>The gender imbalance is of concern to Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of the Council at the end of 2017, Ferreras-Copeland, and many others - both inside and outside the Council, female and male.</p> <p>"The need for women's representation in elected office is unquestionable," Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "As our society grapples with issues crucial to a woman's livelihood – including unfettered access to healthcare, equal pay for equal work, and educational parity – it's more important than ever that women are involved, invested, and leading these discussions."</p> <p>Several times over the past year, Mark-Viverito has made a point to publicly express her worry that the Council will have even fewer female members when the new class is inaugurated in January, 2018. Of eight Council members facing term-limits in 2017, five are women (the entire Council will be up for election in 2017; incumbents are virtual locks for re-election).</p> <p>The special election to replace Arroyo will give some indication of where things are heading in terms of support for female candidates, especially by official Democratic Party leaders. (The Council has 48 Democrats and three Republicans; Arroyo and all other Bronx members are Democrats.)</p> <p>"Women aren't naturally ushered into the pipeline of political leadership," says political strategist Alexis Grenell. "The role parties play in pipeline development is key to ensuring fair and equal representation...which means they have to be conscientious about their choices."</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, Ferreras-Copeland, fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and former Council Members Gale Brewer, now Manhattan Borough President, and Letitia James, now Public Advocate, have all participated in "Why She Ran" events hosted by groups including The Working Families Party and Eleanor's Legacy, which are aimed at encouraging women to run for office. The events have been held over the past few years in locations all over the city and are often well-attended.</p> <p>At the most recent Why She Ran event, <a href="http://www.eventbrite.com/e/why-she-ran-a-conversation-with-women-in-politics-tickets-19020356398?utm_source=eb_email&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=event_reminder&amp;utm_term=eventname" target="_blank">held Oct. 28</a> in Manhattan, Council Member Ferreras-Copeland said, "We need women in the City Council. I am here today to tell you we are in a crisis." She continued: "It will be an embarrassment if this Council loses more women after 2017."</p> <p>"We need you to run," Ferreras-Copeland told the audience of mostly women. "Even if you think you're not ready, you're ready." At this and other Why She Ran events, one statistic is frequently cited: on average, it takes seven asks to convince a woman to run for office.</p> <p>In her statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "New York City is ready for the next generation of strong women leaders, at all levels of government. We need to do everything we can to amplify these voices and ensure that women trailblazers have the tools and platform to make a difference."</p> <p>Attendees of Why She Ran are encouraged to hear from local elected officials about "the challenges women face in politics — and the importance of tackling those challenges head on." Chief among those challenges are confidence and fundraising, participants say. Essential to the process is often also cracking the "old boys club" of local politics.</p> <p>"The lack of gender balance is alarming," Council Member Ritchie Torres told Gotham Gazette. "You know, there are various senses in which the City Council is more progressive. We have more LGBT people in the City Council, we have more young people in the City Council, we have a strong caucus of black, Latino and Asian members. The one sense in which we have been regressing is the number of female Council members to the point where I would regard it as a crisis...and a poor reflection on the City Council."</p> <p>The 2013 city elections saw a net loss of one female Council member - the prior Council included 16 women and 35 men.</p> <p>While he said gender should never be the lone deciding factor in supporting a candidate, Torres pointed to the fact that "people are a product of our life experiences and we bring those experiences to bear on our governance of the city or the state or the country."</p> <p>"It's no accident," he said, "that the more women you have in politics, the stronger the commitment to addressing deeply rooted problems that might affect women disproportionately."</p> <p>Mark-Viverito pointed to the importance of women in elected office during a summer speech at the Young Women's Leadership School Commencement. "The more involved I became, the more I realized that the systemic issues of social and economic justice we battle on the ground in our communities was something we needed to address at the government level, and I knew my perspective could make a difference there as well," she said.</p> <p>"Because women play pivotal roles in our families, in our communities, and in government," Mark-Viverito said, "our perspective is crucial. We get things done."</p> <p>In October, Mark-Viverito and the Council launched the Young Women's Initiative, a coalition of public and private sector leaders and organizations, "aimed at supporting young women in New York City and combating chronic racial and gender inequality in outcomes when it comes to healthcare, education, involvement in the justice system and economic development."</p> <p>In the special election to replace Arroyo, set to occur on a date to be determined in February, there are several rumored and confirmed <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151203/hunts-point/staffer-for-congressman-jose-serrano-seek-arroyos-council-seat" target="_blank">candidates</a>, including at least two women. One crucial aspect to the race will be the backing of the Bronx County Democratic Party organization - the chair of which is Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, who recently replaced new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>Grenell, the political strategist, points to research showing that, particularly in special elections, establishment support correlates highly with outcomes. Grenell says that balanced gender representation "absolutely should be a priority of county organizations."</p> <p>"Part of developing a pipeline of strong female leadership is parties looking for and cultivating qualified female candidates for office, not defaulting to whoever's 'turn it is,'" Grenell says.</p> <p>Pointing to a looming "crisis in female leadership in the Council," Grenell says "if county leadership doesn't prioritize female leadership it will compound the problem going into 2017."</p> <p>"This is not a cosmetic issue," Grenell warns, "women in government prioritize different issues than men, and we see different outcomes."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@TweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/MMV_alatriste_young_womens_initiative.png" alt="MMV alatriste young womens initiative" width="600" height="343" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Speaker Mark-Viverito &amp; others announce Young Women's Initiative (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo recently announced she will resign at the end of the year in order to attend to family matters. In vacating her seat, which she has held since 2005, Arroyo creates uncertainty about who will represent her Bronx district, but also brings to the forefront a larger issue about political representation in New York City: the number of women in the City Council.</p> <p>The 51-member City Council currently consists of 15 women and 36 men. While the Speaker of the Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and chair of the powerful Finance Committee, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, are both women, it is clear that the Council is not nearly representative of the general public when it comes to gender.</p> <p>The gender imbalance is of concern to Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of the Council at the end of 2017, Ferreras-Copeland, and many others - both inside and outside the Council, female and male.</p> <p>"The need for women's representation in elected office is unquestionable," Mark-Viverito said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "As our society grapples with issues crucial to a woman's livelihood – including unfettered access to healthcare, equal pay for equal work, and educational parity – it's more important than ever that women are involved, invested, and leading these discussions."</p> <p>Several times over the past year, Mark-Viverito has made a point to publicly express her worry that the Council will have even fewer female members when the new class is inaugurated in January, 2018. Of eight Council members facing term-limits in 2017, five are women (the entire Council will be up for election in 2017; incumbents are virtual locks for re-election).</p> <p>The special election to replace Arroyo will give some indication of where things are heading in terms of support for female candidates, especially by official Democratic Party leaders. (The Council has 48 Democrats and three Republicans; Arroyo and all other Bronx members are Democrats.)</p> <p>"Women aren't naturally ushered into the pipeline of political leadership," says political strategist Alexis Grenell. "The role parties play in pipeline development is key to ensuring fair and equal representation...which means they have to be conscientious about their choices."</p> <p>Mark-Viverito, Ferreras-Copeland, fellow Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and former Council Members Gale Brewer, now Manhattan Borough President, and Letitia James, now Public Advocate, have all participated in "Why She Ran" events hosted by groups including The Working Families Party and Eleanor's Legacy, which are aimed at encouraging women to run for office. The events have been held over the past few years in locations all over the city and are often well-attended.</p> <p>At the most recent Why She Ran event, <a href="http://www.eventbrite.com/e/why-she-ran-a-conversation-with-women-in-politics-tickets-19020356398?utm_source=eb_email&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=event_reminder&amp;utm_term=eventname" target="_blank">held Oct. 28</a> in Manhattan, Council Member Ferreras-Copeland said, "We need women in the City Council. I am here today to tell you we are in a crisis." She continued: "It will be an embarrassment if this Council loses more women after 2017."</p> <p>"We need you to run," Ferreras-Copeland told the audience of mostly women. "Even if you think you're not ready, you're ready." At this and other Why She Ran events, one statistic is frequently cited: on average, it takes seven asks to convince a woman to run for office.</p> <p>In her statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "New York City is ready for the next generation of strong women leaders, at all levels of government. We need to do everything we can to amplify these voices and ensure that women trailblazers have the tools and platform to make a difference."</p> <p>Attendees of Why She Ran are encouraged to hear from local elected officials about "the challenges women face in politics — and the importance of tackling those challenges head on." Chief among those challenges are confidence and fundraising, participants say. Essential to the process is often also cracking the "old boys club" of local politics.</p> <p>"The lack of gender balance is alarming," Council Member Ritchie Torres told Gotham Gazette. "You know, there are various senses in which the City Council is more progressive. We have more LGBT people in the City Council, we have more young people in the City Council, we have a strong caucus of black, Latino and Asian members. The one sense in which we have been regressing is the number of female Council members to the point where I would regard it as a crisis...and a poor reflection on the City Council."</p> <p>The 2013 city elections saw a net loss of one female Council member - the prior Council included 16 women and 35 men.</p> <p>While he said gender should never be the lone deciding factor in supporting a candidate, Torres pointed to the fact that "people are a product of our life experiences and we bring those experiences to bear on our governance of the city or the state or the country."</p> <p>"It's no accident," he said, "that the more women you have in politics, the stronger the commitment to addressing deeply rooted problems that might affect women disproportionately."</p> <p>Mark-Viverito pointed to the importance of women in elected office during a summer speech at the Young Women's Leadership School Commencement. "The more involved I became, the more I realized that the systemic issues of social and economic justice we battle on the ground in our communities was something we needed to address at the government level, and I knew my perspective could make a difference there as well," she said.</p> <p>"Because women play pivotal roles in our families, in our communities, and in government," Mark-Viverito said, "our perspective is crucial. We get things done."</p> <p>In October, Mark-Viverito and the Council launched the Young Women's Initiative, a coalition of public and private sector leaders and organizations, "aimed at supporting young women in New York City and combating chronic racial and gender inequality in outcomes when it comes to healthcare, education, involvement in the justice system and economic development."</p> <p>In the special election to replace Arroyo, set to occur on a date to be determined in February, there are several rumored and confirmed <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151203/hunts-point/staffer-for-congressman-jose-serrano-seek-arroyos-council-seat" target="_blank">candidates</a>, including at least two women. One crucial aspect to the race will be the backing of the Bronx County Democratic Party organization - the chair of which is Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, who recently replaced new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.</p> <p>Grenell, the political strategist, points to research showing that, particularly in special elections, establishment support correlates highly with outcomes. Grenell says that balanced gender representation "absolutely should be a priority of county organizations."</p> <p>"Part of developing a pipeline of strong female leadership is parties looking for and cultivating qualified female candidates for office, not defaulting to whoever's 'turn it is,'" Grenell says.</p> <p>Pointing to a looming "crisis in female leadership in the Council," Grenell says "if county leadership doesn't prioritize female leadership it will compound the problem going into 2017."</p> <p>"This is not a cosmetic issue," Grenell warns, "women in government prioritize different issues than men, and we see different outcomes."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@TweetBenMax</a></p>