State Income Equity Adjustment in the Human Services Field in Line with Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda

The gender wage gap is still a major issue in the workplace. HSC commends Governor Cuomo for spearheading the Women’s Equality Agenda, a major step forward for women striving to live more economically stable lives and is particularly happy to see a focus on pay equity. To further this goal, HSC urges the Governor to support the provision of an income equity adjustment for nonprofit human services employees, the majority of whom are women.

The very first goal of the ten point plan calls for “Strengthening laws that require Equal Pay for Equal Work.” But the Governor has the power to move this goal along even further by including additional funds in nonprofit human services contracts that can be used to support salaries in this field that is heavily dominated by women.

Over the last several years, there has not been a Cost of Living Adjustment in the budget for this critical workforce. This is substantial because women constitute 80 percent of the human services nonprofit workforce, with women of color also being 80 percent of the workforce. [1] Nonprofit employees make less money compared to other sectors, with an average of $21.68 per hour compared to similar fields like State government employees who make $23.77 per hour and local government employees who make an average of $25.16 per hour.[2] Wage differences based on industry also amount to substantial pay difference between women and men because higher paid industries tend to be predominately male. [3]

Studies show many women are drawn to the nonprofit sector because they feel the sector is more accommodating of working mothers, with more flexibility around childrearing. In addition, many women report that they feel more at ease working in the nonprofit sector due to its more nurturing and personal culture. [4] However, a downside to work in the nonprofit sector is lower salaries compared to other industries with similar levels of responsibility. Research also shows that occupations predominately held by women have lower salaries, such as the human services sector,[5] because of existing gender biases that result in the undervaluing of this work. [6]

This undervaluing of what is often viewed as “women’s work” has  kept wages lower, perpetuating the gender wage gap. A State supported income equity adjustment would help women overcome these biases by placing more value on the work performed in industries that help people – like the human services sector – and would demonstrate that New York recognizes and values the contributions made by this critical workforce.  It would also have the dual benefit of helping women become better providers for their families.

Women more than ever are heads of households,[7] and are increasingly having to raise children with smaller paychecks due to existing pay inequity.[8] Since women are largely represented in industries like the nonprofit sector that pay less, women tend to be more at risk of poverty and economic instability.[9] In addition, women on average pay more for necessities like health insurance, creating an added burden. [10] Lower average pay, higher expenses, and more women headed households means that state policies, such as an income equity adjustment for human services providers, aimed at reducing gender based pay gaps, must be prioritized.

With the recent economic downturn, human services nonprofits are serving more people with less resources. When examining the work that human services nonprofits provide, it is remarkable how much providers are able to do for their clients with limited resources and funding. These agencies help people from various backgrounds, particularly the most needy, improve their quality of life by granting access to necessities such as food, shelter, healthcare, education, job training, childcare, and legal help.

As highlighted in the Women’s Equality Agenda,[11] women across all industries face unique obstacles that hinder stable employment. An income equity adjustment to human service contracts would provide nonprofit employees, who are predominately women, with the resources they need to meet rising costs and support their families. An adjustment would not only help keep many women and their families out of poverty and economic distress, it would add more value to the work women do. An income equity adjustment for human services nonprofit employees is a step in the right direction in allowing women to advance further in the workforce and live more stable and secure lives. New York should take this important step.

Contributed by Laurina Santi of the Human Services Council.


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About Human Services Council

The Human Services Council strengthens New York's nonprofit human services sector, ensuring all New Yorkers across diverse neighborhoods, cultures, and generations reach their full potential.
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