City employees do everything from the daily duties of being a police officer to running city departments like the MTA. Their work determines and shapes how residents interact with the city in daily life.
So the Metro Human Relations Commission studied various reports to assess how well Metro employees represent the city based on race, ethnicity and gender. The report finds small improvements since 2015, but progress wasn’t substantial.
The commission’s executive director, Melody Fowler-Green, says the lack of representation undermines the legitimacy and trust of local government and can lead to public conflict.
“Addressing inequalities, things like salary gaps and differences in access, help us head off some of the thornier public conflicts,” she says. “Like people marching in the street legitimately saying, ‘We are being treated inequitably to the point of fearing for our lives.’ But even more mundane is there’s evidence that economic development increases for all of us when we can tighten up those inequality gaps.”
Here’s where things stand in Metro:
1. Hispanic employees are underrepresented and lag the most in earnings.
Hispanic Metro employees are underrepresented in all but one of the city’s 59 departments, the Community Education Commission. Their representation has increased over time. They also have the biggest salary gap with white employees, whose earnings are the highest over time.
2. Black employees are overrepresented, but often among the lowest paid.
Black employees (and white) are overrepresented in most departments compared to the city average. Black and Hispanic employees are overrepresented within the lowest paid 10%. Black people are underrepresented on the Historical Commission, IT services, MTA and the Airport Authority. This is a part of a larger historic and systemic trend. An Associated Press study found Black people are constantly underrepresented in high-salary jobs, such as architecture, business and technology, compared to white people.
3. Asians are underrepresented but often earn more.
Asians and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in all but one of the 59 departments, Internal Audit. They have increased over time and tend to be overrepresented in the highest paid 10%.
4. Women’s salaries still lag behind men’s.
Women are more likely to be paid less than male employees. Since 2015, average salaries between newly hired men and women tend to be mostly equal. Women are overrepresented in service sector jobs that are traditionally deemed as a “woman’s job.” Think social services and education.
Mayor John Cooper’s office says he is “exploring” ways to build in equity metrics for all city departments, a step for which Fowler-Green advocates. The city is also currently looking for two diversity officers to work with department heads, boards and commissions, the city council and the public.