Women's Fund Of Miami-Dade Wants To Create Structural Change Around Pay Equity

Aug 29, 2017

Women in Miami-Dade earn 87 cents for every dollar a man makes. One in five women in Miami-Dade lives in poverty.

The Women's Fund of Miami-Dade wants to change that. 

The 25-year old nonprofit with a specific focus on improving the lives of girls and women is shifting its focus to create structural change when it comes to pay equity. 

In the past, the fund provided substantial grants to a wide range of community groups. Some provided housing support, children services or assistance to domestic violence victims.

But this new focus will address the underlying cause for many of the issues women face: economic security. 

Janet Altman, board chair of the Women's Fund, sat down with WLRN reporter Nadege Green to talk about the nonprofit's mission.

WLRN: Twenty percent of women in Miami-Dade live in poverty. That number is the same as 13 years ago. Why has it been so difficult to make gains in this area?

ALTMAN: The pay gap is one of the reasons women can’t make stride out of poverty. Women in Miami-Dade County are paid less than men in all types of jobs. All categories of women are paid less. And we find that if we look at the data, if that pay gap was reduced so would poverty.

We know when we talk about poverty in Miami-Dade it is often single-income households led by women with children. Disproportionately, that means black and Hispanic women. What does that mean for our community?

When we started looking at poverty and pay equity we recognized that yes, it would have a greater effect on black and Hispanic women if we could close the pay gap. When we looked at the issues that the Women's Fund has been working on for 25 years , we recognized that economic security, poverty and other related economic issues-- those issues underpin all of the issues that women face in our county.

So when we talk about child care, when we talk about health care, when we talk about violence against women, we realize that women who are in poverty can't deal with any of those issues because they don't have enough money to put food on the table.

What are some of the forces working against pay equity? 

There are myths that women are paid less because of their circumstances. So women who take time off from their careers to raise children, women who choose different occupations, none of those things really are true though. When you look at men who take time off they still wind up being paid more than women. When you look at men who are in those traditional women's occupations they still are paid more than women. So I think one of the strongest forces that's working against us is the stories that are out there that aren't true about why this pay gap exists.

How do you measure outcome in this new focus on pay equity?  What's working,  what's not working?

We spent some time looking at our outcomes in the past. We spent some time looking at the history of the Women's Fund, which has been a very strong force in our community for 25 years. The outcomes we were seeing,  which were in small groups based on grants that we gave to some great organizations, those outcomes were fabulous.

But when you looked at the statistics for our county and our state we weren't doing any better in terms of women's poverty and opportunity than we had two decades ago. So as we start to gather the data about pay equity, first we're going to get people to commit. Then we're going to start to gather their data in a secure and confidential way and then we're going to be able to report how many women in our county are now working in companies or in jobs [in which] they are paid equally to men.

How do you  do that?

We've started by talking with three groups of people, the governments, the for-profit businesses and the nonprofits. We're a small organization with a really important and really large mission: to improve the quality of life for women and girls in Miami-Dade County.  And the only way we were really going to see a powerful impact was to really work for systemic change.