Gender Pay Equity is nothing new, women who work full time, year round in the U.S. are typically paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, which translates into a loss of $10,470 in median earnings every year. The Equal Pay Act has been the law for more than 50 years, but the wage gap remains with women in lower wage jobs more likely to be subject to wage discrimination. On Maui, we can shrink the wage gap by lifting up the salaries of women in low-wage jobs, making it easier for females to enter high-paying careers, and ensuring that women don’t take a financial hit for deciding to have a family. It is a fact that women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels.
Men less experienced regularly get paid more than women with more experience, sometimes when doing the exact same job. According to a 2018 study by the American Association of University Women the Aloha State has a gender pay gap of 17%, placing it 10th out of all 50 states. Unskilled laborers, typically men, are routinely paid at a higher rate than clerical workers, typically women, doing work which requires a certain skill set and entrance level.
Connie Gouveia, Laureen Perreira, and Karin Phaneuf have been avid, active members of the Mayor’s Clerical Repricing Committee for the past five years. Their goal is to achieve pay equity for the clerks of the County of Maui and, eventually, the entire state of Hawaii. This committee was formed to bring to light the huge pay disparity that exists between primarily male, “unskilled” blue collar workers and primarily female “skilled” white collar clerks and secretarial staff.
In 2014 the starting wage for an unskilled laborer was $17.43 per hour. The starting pay for a clerk was $13.88, a difference of $3.55 per hour. Today, the gap has widened and a Laborer II now makes $19.86 an hour, while a starting Clerk III makes $14.93, a difference of $4.93 per hour. Unless something is done, the gap will continue to widen.
The minimum qualifications needed to become a clerk with County of Maui are as follows:
• Must be a High School Graduate (many are college graduates)
• Must have two years of previous clerical experience
• Must pass Civil Service Exam and be rated in the top 5-10 to be called for an interview
• Must pass a typing proficiency test • Must have a valid driver’s license
Meanwhile, the qualifications needed to be hired as an Unskilled Laborer with the County of Maui are as follows:
• Must have 8th grade or, for some positions, high school or equivalent graduation
• No previous training required
• Must have a valid driver’s license
In April an agreement outlining positive wage changes that must be implemented to start the ball rolling for Maui County Clerks was signed by Mayor Arakawa and the HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira. This amazing agreement will affect upwards of 300 clerks, lifeguards and inspectors who are not making the $3,335 threshold and push forward a call to reexamine clerical salaries in the government sector. As of now, we are awaiting it to be assigned an agenda date with the Maui County Council to start the approval process.
With more and more working mothers, single mothers and female heads of households in Hawaii trying to provide for their families, creating gender equity is an important issue towards helping all families thrive and will be a wonderful legacy for our outgoing mayor and council members if it passes.
Connie Gouveia, Clerk III, and Laureen Perreira, Administrative Services Assistant I work for the CoM Department of Public Works, Karin Phaneuf works for the CoM Department of Planning as an Administrative Officer. All have been members of the Mayor’s Repricing Committee since 2014 and continue to advocate for pay increases for women in Hawaii.
Image Credit: Mayor Alan Arakawa's Clerical Repricing Committee