Editor’s Note: This is part of a series exploring Honolulu government salaries. Read previous articles here:

Men and women work different jobs at Honolulu Hale, and the men’s jobs pay more.

That’s according a Civil Beat investigation into city salaries.

More than two-thirds of government employees are men, Mayor Peter Carlisle‘s cabinet is predominantly male, and women working in Honolulu government make 80 to 85 cents on the dollar overall.

The 15 to 20 percent gender pay gap in city government is about the same as the statewide average, according to a report released earlier this month by the American Association of University Women. Hawaii ranks 16th nationally, and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono said island women “deserve better.”

The national report and Civil Beat’s investigation come as gender equity dominates headlines and political debate. Republicans and Democrats have traded accusations of waging a “war on women” as they’ve re-litigated the merits of the three-year-old Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that gives women a larger window to file pay discrimination lawsuits.

Civil Beat has filed records requests and published government employee salaries over the past two years because taxpayers should know how their money’s being spent and public employees should know if they’re being paid fairly compared to their colleagues. The gender equity analysis described in this article is our most thorough attempt yet toward answering that second question.

Boy’s Club at Honolulu Hale

Altogether, of the 5,971 city employees for whom we identified a gender — see more on our methodology at the bottom of this article — more than 70 percent were men, making Honolulu government a bit of a boy’s club.

Of the city’s most common first names, the first predominantly female one doesn’t pop up until No. 33 on the list, after 32 common male names. And of the 10 most common job titles in city government, most had more men working than women.

You’ll notice that the higher-paying of the common job titles are held overwhelmingly by men, and those held by women are seasonal or hourly.1

Rank Job Title Total Count Salary Range Male Count Female Count
1 Fire Fighter I 449 $48,324 – $63,564 334 3
2 Grounds Keeper 242 $33,228 138 20
3 Fire Fighter III 241 $56,508 – $74,364 183 7
4 Recreation Aide (Summer) 224 $20,862 64 70
5 Fire Captain 202 $66,108 – $86,988 168 2
6 Summer Student Aide III 157 $20,758 31 54
7 Senior Clerk Typist 151 $26,364 – $40,548 12 88
8 Summer Swim Aide 145 $25,376 50 34
9 Summer Student Aide II 138 $17,784 31 51
10 Water Safety Officer II 131 $34,692 – $53,364 97 3

Source: Civil Beat analysis of salary data

Another area where women are all but excluded: Cabinet positions. All but two of 18 department directors in Carlisle’s administration are men.

“We can’t legislate that, you know. We just keep urging, and plus having more women step forward to make themselves available for the leadership positions,” said Ann Kobayashi, one of just two women on the nine-member Honolulu City Council . “I guess as more women get selected, then more women will step forward. It used to be that women felt, ‘Oh it’s not worth trying, that guy is applying.’ But it is getting better. We can vote now. We can borrow money to buy a car in our own name. It used to be you couldn’t.”

There’s still definitely a salary gap between men and women who work for the city, even if it is improving.

Of the 4,525 employees for whom we had a salary range, we identified the gender of 73 percent. The average start of the women’s salary range was $37,047, more than $10,000 and nearly 22 percent less than the average man’s starting salary of $47,385. At the top of the range, women make on average $55,546, which is 16 percent lower than men’s $66,367.

Of the 3,942 employees for whom we had an exact salary, we were able to venture a guess about the gender of more than two-thirds, and found that the men made $43,551, on average, versus women’s $35,671, a gap of just over 18 percent.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Kobayashi said she believes women are paid equally when they do the same work.

“In government, there is that gender equality in terms of pay,” she said. “It’s just getting women into leadership roles that’s difficult.”

The data, which covers the current fiscal year, appears to support that theory. A closer look at the common job titles held by exact-salary employees shows that men and women are generally paid the same for the same work. Here are three examples:

  • There are 97 deputy prosecuting attorneys in the database. Originally, Civil Beat found approximately an 8 percent pay gap between the males and females performing the same job. But after we asked the prosecutor’s office for information, they confirmed the genders of employees for which we were unable to venture a guess based only on their first names.

The new data gave us a total of 48 women and 49 men working as deputy prosecutors, earning $68,719 and $69,762, respectively. That gap of about $1,000 is less than 1.5 percent and is basically negligible.

  • There are 40 deputy corporation counsels in the database. Civil Beat identified 13 women making $75,916 on average and 18 men making $84,322 on average. That would be a gap of nearly 10 percent. Corporation Counsel Bob Godbey said in an email that the department’s internal data shows a gap of 7 percent. We asked Godbey to explain how salaries are set, and this is part of what he wrote:

Salaries are, in a broad sense, influenced by seniority, which in turn reflects gender patterns that are changing. More women are entering law now than in years previously, but it is still the case in our office, and in law more generally, that a higher percentage of senior attorneys are often men. Of the attorneys in our office who have been practicing for 20 years or more, roughly two-thirds are men. In contrast, of the attorneys in our office who have been practicing for 10 years or less, roughly two-thirds are women.

The salaries of deputies in the Corporation Counsel’s office generally reflect how much relevant experience they have in their areas of practice for the City. Depending upon the availability of funding, there is some discretion in setting salaries. However, deputies with ten or more years of relevant civil experience have a minimum salary set by the salary commission, which is often significantly higher than more junior deputies receive. There are twenty deputies who have a minimum salary set by the salary commission, six of whom are women. In other words, while roughly half of our deputies are now women, only 30 percent of our senior deputies in this category are women. We expect that percentage to grow.

Godbey noted that the two most highly paid deputies in his office are women, as was his predecessor, Carrie Okinaga.

“There is a long tradition in the Corporation Counsel’s office of talented female lawyers at every level of the organization, from the top to the bottom,” he wrote. “Women can rise to the top management in the department and earn high salaries, and they are there now.”

Interestingly, the American Association of University Women report found that the gender gap tends to grow at higher levels of academic achievement. Those with professional degrees, like lawyers, see the largest pay gap, with women earning on average just 72 percent of what men make, according to the report.

Education Level Women’s Pay as Percent of Men’s Pay
High School Dropout 80%
High School Graduate 76%
Associate Degree 76%
Bachelor’s Degree 77%
Master’s Degree 76%
Professional Degree 72%
Doctoral Degree 80%

Source: The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, 2012 edition

  • On the other end of the spectrum, there are 17 legislative aides in the database, and we were able to identify six as men and six as women. The women make more than the men — an average of $53,497 to $46,373, which is a 15 percent gap. Female legislative analysts also make more than 10 percent more than their male counterparts, though there’s only six of those on the books.

Both of those jobs, as the titles would suggest, are in the legislative branch of government, under the Honolulu City Council.

Ruth Baker, an executive assistant to council member Romy Cachola, said she believes the city’s pay is fair. She said she made a choice to spend more time with her family and away from her career, but has been given an opportunity to advance now that she’s returned to the workforce.

“In my position, the official title was private secretary, but he actually gave me the title as executive assistant knowing that he saw value in my work,” Baker said of her boss. “He understands the importance of elevating your title so it’ll help me not only right now but later now after this ends, after his term ends.”

How We Did It

Civil Beat’s findings are based on the salary database of 8,467 city employees2 published this week. The data we received from the city includes name, title, department and salary — but not gender. Here’s how we reached our conclusions for this article:

Civil Beat first came up with separate lists of common male names and common female names. The lists are based on the Social Security Administration’s historical data of the top 200 names for both male and female babies in the United States from each decade dating back to the 1930s, inclusive. We also added in the 100 most common male and female names for babies born in Hawaii in 2010, 2000, 1990, 1980, 1970, and 1960, the earliest year available, to include monikers like Ikaika or Leilani that are well-known here.

If a city employee’s first name was not found in either list, we left it out of the analysis. If a first name was found in both lists (Jordan, Casey or Angel, for example), we also left it out. Only names found in either the male or female list were given a gender identification.

In all, we were able to identify a single gender for 5,971 of the 8,467 city employees in our database — better than 70 percent. We did not spot-check our analysis with phone calls to any employees and did not substitute our personal knowledge or judgment in any way. We did not insert the information provided to use by the prosecutor’s office into the final results. The methodology remained consistent. The gender identifications are based entirely and exclusively on Social Security Administration data.

This methodology gives us less than 100 percent certainty about the gender of any single employee. Michael may be a popular male name and not a particularly popular female name, but there might be a female Michael out there somewhere. She might be a Honolulu government employee, and we wouldn’t know it, and our database would not reflect it.

So there are degrees of certainty, and we’re confident our data is mostly accurate — accurate enough to draw our conclusions.

Check out the database for yourself, and let us know if you find anything we missed this week:

Civil Beat’s Nanea Kalani and Lena Tran contributed to this report.

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