Priority Action Items for the Mayor
Advancing the Women and Girls of New York City,
The issues that impact women are urgent. Yet, they are often sidelined rather than fully integrated into public policy as they should be. In New York City, 40% of single mothers and their children live in poverty; the poverty rate for women age 65 and over is one in five, almost double the national rate; the number of rapes has increased by 57% since 2009, and full-time working women in the metropolitan area face a 15% wage gap.
PDF Version: NOW-NYC Priority Agenda for the Mayor
Lifting women out of poverty, ending gender discrimination, closing the wage gap, and ensuring women’s health and physical safety, together, have a cumulative impact on both the state of our families and the economy. Dismantling the barriers that exist for women is at the crux of reducing our city’s growing economic divide, a central promise of the incoming administration and one that has a clear mandate from New York voters.
NOW-NYC aims to promote reproductive rights, secure women’s economic empowerment, and end discrimination and violence against women. NOW-NYC is excited to have a mayor whose vision so strongly overlaps with that of our organization and our members, and we look forward to working in partnership to proactively address women’s inequality in our city. NOW-NYC calls on the mayor-elect to:
1. Make Women’s Issues Central to the Mayor’s Agenda
Women’s issues cannot be relegated as a niche issue but must become a fully integrated component of all issues. Women’s equality must be a lens through which all city policies are developed, implemented, and enforced. The city must make a visible commitment to understanding and addressing how its policies impact women and marshal its resources to advance equality.
2. Advocate for Women’s Economic Security
Ensuring equal pay for New York City-area women would translate to an $8,000 increase in the annual earnings of full-time working women, supporting families and lifting many out of poverty. Closing the income gap between men and women is imperative, considering that women are either the primary or sole source of income in 40% of all U.S. households with children. We can close the pay gap in New York City by: (A) increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers; (B) outlawing wage secrecy policies that keep pay differentials hidden; and (C) addressing pay discrimination for city workers.
(A) Women constitute nearly two-thirds of all tipped workers and 71% of restaurant servers who experience poverty at three times the rate of the general workforce. The food and drink industry employs more than a quarter of a million workers in New York City. Although New York State instituted a minimum wage increase, tipped workers were excluded.
(B) A majority of private sector workers in the U.S. are prohibited or discouraged from sharing salary information. Transparency without fear of retaliation is the only sure way women will be able to know whether they are earning their fair share.
(C) The mayor-elect has pledged to settle the current lawsuit against the city brought by female school safety agents who are earning $7,000 less than their male counterparts, impacting 5,000 workers. The mayor-elect should also proactively evaluate and address any existing wage gaps among city employees.
Ensuring affordable child care is one of the most significant ways to expand job opportunities for women. The mayor-elect should act to protect and expand child care options, by: (A) proactively increasing the number of eligible families utilizing subsidized day care (only 27% are currently being served), and (B) making a commitment to re-allocate any new slots created by fulfilling the pledge to institute universal pre-kindergarten to eligible infants and toddlers.
Create job opportunities for women, particularly in high paying and/or non-traditional occupations like construction by: (A) expanding opportunities for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs); and (B) ensuring 100% enforcement of New York City’s Human Rights Law, particularly for all vendors awarded city contracts:
(A) New York City passed laws to expand opportunities for M/WBEs in both 2005 and 2013; however, data demonstrate that the program continues to fall short of established targets. Growing the program will be a vital component of expanding job opportunities for women and building strong local economies across the diverse communities of all five boroughs.
(B) New York City proudly has one of the strongest Human Rights Laws in the country, which it recently expanded to include protections for pregnant workers. However, our laws can only be as strong as their on-the-ground enforcement. The Human Rights Commission must be fully funded and staffed to effectively enforce the law. Furthermore, the city should ensure that all of its contractors explicitly meet the standards set forth in the law.
Expand affordable housing. Thirty-one percent of renting New Yorkers spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities. A recent New York Times article paints a stark portrait of the working poor: 28% of families in homeless shelters include a working adult and are mostly women. This is why the mayor’s plan to increase affordable housing units by implementing stricter requirements on developers to create low and middle-income housing is critical.
3. Ensure Equity in Education
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education, which includes sexual harassment and sexual violence, as well as pregnancy discrimination. Preliminary investigations and anecdotal evidence collected by parents and advocates indicate that there is a lack of awareness among students and administrators of current Title IX protections and reporting channels. The mayor should act to:
(A) Ensure that the next NYC Schools Chancellor implements 100% compliance and enforcement of Title IX in all public schools:
(B) Immediately fill the vacancy in the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity Management’s Executive Director position; and
(C) Explicitly state in federally required training and nondiscrimination notices that protections include freedom from sexual harassment, sexual violence, and pregnancy discrimination.
4. Engage the NYPD
Crimes against women are still at epidemic levels in New York City. The number of reported rapes has surged by 57% since 2009, from roughly 760 to 1200, the NYPD receives an estimated 600 domestic violence calls every day, and the city is recognized by the Department of Justice as both a major point of entry and destination for victims of sex trafficking.
The negative impact of aggressive stop and frisk policing on police-community relations has been a hallmark of this mayoral race. In the past few years, police-community relations also suffered on the heels of several high-profile rape cases involving NYPD officers which drew widespread attention and tested the public’s trust, particularly that of women. With the appointment of Bill Bratton as police commissioner—a leader widely recognized for his expertise on community policing—we hope that this trust will be restored.
We call on the mayor and police commissioner to institute a proactive, department-wide plan of action to address violence against women that includes: (A) Promoting a culture of integrity and respect for women and girls (B) Making it a system-wide priority to reduce the violent crime of rape; and (C) Prioritizing the investigation and prevention of human trafficking.
5. Budget for Women’s Equality
Budget priorities should reflect a tangible commitment to women’s equality. Year after year, subsidized child care and after school programs are put on the chopping block. The lack of stability for these programs translates to a lack of stability for New York families, putting the well-being of the city’s children as well as the jobs of both parents and day care workers at risk. Furthermore, other priorities, including services for sexual assault survivors and funding for safety net programs that support low-income women and single mothers face shrinking support. The mayor should follow-through on his promise to end the “budget dance,” with a long-term commitment to invest in families and communities.
6. Protect Reproductive Healthcare
New York City has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, and the rate of maternal mortality for African-American women in New York City is seven times higher than the rate for white women. This means that in one of the richest cities in the world, more African-American women die of childbirth per 100,000 births than the women of Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia—all countries that struggle with fair and equitable treatment of women. The fact that women are dying from giving birth in a city with some of the best hospitals in the country can be viewed as nothing less than an alarm bell. The mayor should consider the findings and recommendations of the New York Academy of Medicine and work with local stakeholders, including community healthcare organizations, advocates, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to close this gap.
We fully support the mayor’s promise to safeguard women’s comprehensive reproductive health by: (A) ensuring access to abortion clinics and improving coordination with the NYPD; (B) enforcing consumer protections and transparency for crisis pregnancy centers; and (C) continuing abortion training for medical residents.
7. Advance Women’s Leadership
Ensure that the City of New York sets the standard for equity in the workplace and promotes a culture of fairness. The mayor is convening a task force to create family-friendly workplaces. We urge that this includes promoting work/life balance, encouraging diversity at all levels, allowing for adequate sick and family leave options, and providing health insurance that includes comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. Even in “progressive” New York City, only 15 of the incoming 51 City Council seats will be filled by women; this is a noted decrease in women’s representation on the Council. In the private sector, women constitute only 14% of executive officers and only 4% of CEOs. Gender diversity in leadership has been demonstrated in study after study— done in the U.S. and abroad— to improve firms’ financial performance. This means that diversity isn’t just a talking point but that it actually yields better results. The next administration should proactively recruit, support, appoint, and promote competent and capable women to key leadership positions.