It’s Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.
The Concord Monitor has spent the week reporting on its efforts to obtain public records and review how taxpayer dollars are spent.
That included an analysis of the salaries of Concord city employees, which found a lack of women among the city’s top earners.
You can view a searchable database of Concord city employee salaries here.
Megan Doyle is a reporter for the Concord Monitor.
She spoke with NHPR Morning Edition producer Michael Brindley about her report.
As part of your reporting for Sunshine Week, you did an analysis of the city of Concord’s top earners. What did you find?
In early February, I filed a right to know request with the city of Concord for all of their salary records for calendar year and fiscal year 2014. What we found is there is definitely a gender disparity at the top of the payroll here in Concord. Men dominate the positions that are top paid and top ranking. Of the 22 employees who made more than $100,000 last year, only three of them were women. Of the 50 highest paid employees in the city last year, eight of them were women.
As part of your reporting, did you look at a broader context? In other words, is this just an issue in Concord?
No, it’s definitely not. We looked to a 2014 study from the Office of Personnel Management that noticed a gender disparity in the federal government, as well. This is something that transcends government positions at all levels. There’s definitely a gender gap. It’s improving slightly, but men tend to dominate that are high ranking and better paid. Female workers are typically making less than their male colleagues.
You spoke with Concord officials for your story. What did they have to say about this?
They attributed this gender gap to two reasons in particular. One is that Concord’s fire and police departments as well as the general services department are the largest departments in the city of Concord and are very male dominated. Among 84 police officers in Concord, 11 of them are women. And we have no female firefighters in Concord. The four female employees in the fire department are all in administrative positions.
The police and fire chiefs here in Concord did talk about the need to do better recruiting and to really go back to the source. They want to attract women who are younger, who are high school students, and to try and break the kind of stereotypes that went with that type of work in the past and attract more women to those fields.
So they feel this is an issue they want to address?
Definitely. That was something both chiefs really hammered home, especially fire chief Dan Andrus. He pointed to some programs that Concord does in high schools in the area and mentioned that he has some young women – 3 of 14 students – at a high school level course who are interested in the fire service and doing their beginning training. We also have one of our three current police candidates at the police academy in Concord is a woman. They pointed to those statistics and said it’s something they’d like to improve in the future.
City officials also cited low turnover as a reason. Can you explain what they meant by that?
The workforce was even more male dominated say 20 years ago. There are definitely employees in the city of Concord who have remained through that time, who have made their careers here. Thirty-three percent, or of 170 people in the city of Concord are at the top of their possible pay scale. That means they’ve been here long enough to work their way up. We also saw a turnover rate of about 1 or 1.5 percent, while the city manager said a typical year is more like 3 or 4 percent. Fewer employees are leaving, and we still see that work dynamic from 25 years ago present in the Concord workforce.
As you point out in your article, 30 percent of the workforce in Concord is female. How are they represented in leadership positions overall?
We found that of 15 department heads, five of them are women. So the leadership positions do reflect that breakdown and accurately reflect the number of women in the Concord workforce. However, what we did find is that particularly among those police and fire positions have the most opportunity for overtime. That bumped a lot of them high among the ranks of paid employees in the city of Concord. Several of those employees who earned more than $100,000 last year did have opportunities for overtime of severance and boosted them above female employees.
Unlike teachers per say who may not have a chance for overtime.