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Experts debate pay equity at Tampa Tiger Bay Club

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Among the core tenets that many Democrats running for office talk about often is their belief in pay equity — the ability for women to make the same as men in the workforce.

What is meant by pay equity and how it might be achieved was the subject of discussion at a Tampa Tiger Bay forum held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tampa Airport Friday afternoon.

Tampa Bay Times deputy managing editor of politics and business Amy Hollyfield started the conversation with a bevy of statistics to show that the actual pay discrepancies between men and women in the workplace varies considerably.

“It is correct to say that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes,” she asserted. “But it is incorrect to say that a woman makes 77 cents for doing the same job as a man.”

Holyfield said that when you actually drill down with the statistics, the more accurate figure is a smaller pay gap of 82 cents an hour. When you include part-timers, hourly wages and people who have different work “situations,” that figure goes up to 87 cents an hour.

To get an even narrower perspective, she said that looking at single, childless women in their 20s actually out earn their male peers (a fact that the Times’ PolitiFact verified in April 2014).

Diane Price-Herndl, chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies at USF, agreed that college educated single women living in major cities on average make salaries comparable to men. But she said when it comes to recent college graduates, men still make more than women do.

“There’s a lot of evidence that that is the pay gap that continues for the rest of your career,” she said, because most pay raises are based on current income and a new job’s salary is generally negotiated based on one’s previous salary.

“So it’s a pay gap that lasts forever,” she said.

Lorna Taylor, the CEO with Premier Eye Care, which has offices in 11 different states. She praised millennial women as being “remarkable across the board at advocating for themselves.”

Former Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said that part of the problem historically could be that women have chosen jobs that traditionally paid less, specifically referring to occupations like the arts and education. She asked the panel if there was anything being done to boost the salaries of those occupations?

Labor and employment attorney Tom Gonzalez called Saul-Sena’s query the essential question in the discussion of pay equity versus equal pay. “I think that’s the essence of this issue … how you value those different occupations and what you want to do, because until you have some way to compare and match them up, the value of clericals is equal to the value of wood chopping out back, or if there’s some way that you can judge the role of work, then I think you’re going to have a hard time closing that gap all the way.”

When asked about a gender gap for transgendered people, USF’s Price-Herndl said that trans people were among the least paid in our culture. More than 15 percent of all trans people make less than $10,000.

“They are actively discriminated against,” she declared.

She broke down the pay ladder: Gay men make less than white men; lesbians make less than gay men; lesbians make more than heterosexual women. She said there are different theories about that.

“Lesbians often have partners who are supportive,” she said.

Earlier Tiger Bay board member Greg Wilson — a self-described white male, had asked the panel what he and his kind could do to support narrowing the pay gap between the genders.

“Be supportive of your female partners, and their aspirations,” answered Price-Herndl. “There are a lot of families where the husband in the family doesn’t want his wife to go out and work that many hours that it may take in order to advance her career, because then she will be spending less time with the children and less time in the house … cooking and maybe he would have to pick some of that up.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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