Pay Gap Found Across Public Sector Jobs in SD County

County says pay gap is caused by differences in tenure, job titles; not gender.

Women staffers who work for San Diego County supervisors overseeing county government operations are paid, on average, $37,380 less a year than the male staffers in their office.

That’s according to a review by The San Diego Union Tribune reporter Joshua Stewart published Sunday.

“The 23 women who work for San Diego County supervisors are paid 62 cents for every dollar the 18 men who work alongside them earn,” according to a review of pay data by Stewart.

The County says the sample size for supervisors’ staff is too small to draw conclusions.

NBC 7 found that among all San Diego County residents who work for local government, women make 72-cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts, according to U.S. Census data for five years.

Stewart said he analyzed the staffer pay for different variables.

“The difference exists between men and women who have the same job even though women, across the board, have an average of 14 more months of experience in county government,” he wrote.

Policy experts say a gender pay gap doesn’t just impact the employees’ bottom lines, but has ripple effects far into the future.

“Women, we tend to live longer. We also tend to work for less pay over our lifetime,” said former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, who served on the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “That includes taking off time for family and childcare, and because of consistent and chronic underpayment.”

Saldana described a “ripple effect” on the community when women receive less pay. That ripple effect includes: public safety threats when women don’t leave domestic violence situations because they can’t afford to survive on their own; welfare subsidies and long-term health care as women live longer, but can’t afford to live off their retirement plans.

“Taxpayers wind up paying for women who live longer and have less money to live on,” she said. “So, by chronically underpaying women, we may save our taxpayer dollars when they are working, but it doesn’t save taxpayers in the long run.”

Of the five supervisors’ staffs, Supervisor Greg Cox’s office is the only one where women do not earn significantly less than men.

“Obviously, it helps when your chief-of-staff is a female,” said Cox, adding low employee turnover has boosted tenure and pay for women in his office. “We have the greatest team here.”

Stewart interviewed Pam O'Neil, Supervisor Cox’s chief-of-staff, who has more than 31 years of experience working for county government.

“She says twice a year, she looks at what men earn and what women earn and what everyone earns as a whole, and part of that is to make sure people are paid fairly, but another part of that is a little more self-serving, to make sure people are well-paid so someone doesn’t poach them,” Stewart said.

The County says there are only discrepancies in pay because of differences in tenure or differences in job titles. Critics of national figures say the pay gap isn’t real, but rather men and women just choose different jobs, so there are occupational pay gaps.

NBC 7 examined county payroll data for about 300 deputy sheriffs and found women deputies make 97-cents on the dollar of male deputy sheriffs. We also found women make slightly more than men in county jobs like “human services specialist” and “office assistant.”

Contact Us