City to review and update gender equity policy

On February 14, 2018, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

The Somerville Board of Aldermen has asked the administration to look into the issues of gender inequity in the areas of leadership and pay for city employees such as police, fire, and emergency services personnel.

By Jim Clark

Discussion took place at the latest Regular Meeting of the Somerville Board of Aldermen related to gender equity issues. Specifically, it was noted that a great disparity exists between the number of women employed in leadership roles by the city compared to men.

Alderman At-Large Stephanie Hirsch shared some eye-opening data with the Board saying, “Something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few weeks and before that is differences in leadership and wages, and I got the total numbers of women in police and fire. There are only 3.5 percent of the command staff in police and fire combined are women. That’s 3 women and 84 men are commanders in the police and the fire departments.”

Hirsch went on to explain that a mere 9.5 percent of regular officers in the police and fire departments are women, representing of 18 out of 171 such officers.

“11 out of the 14 E-911 operators are women and they make about $55,000,” Hirsch continued. “0 out of the 10 fire alarm operators are women, and they make about $85,000-90,000. So that’s just incredibly stark, and it’s really hard to fix this kind of stuff. It’s far beyond Somerville and it’s going to take a really huge amount of determination, hard conversations, to get to the root of these very extraordinary differences, and gaps in leadership and representation.”

Hirsch said that she hopes people will be willing to ask those hard questions. She also emphasized that she was not being critical of the police and fire departments, and that she has a lot of respect and admiration for the work they do.

“But I kind of feel the same way about teachers,” Hirsch said. “I walk away from Argenziano School with all three of my kids there. These teachers – there are, like, 30 of them – and they have 600 kids. And they have them all day. We have a lot of amazing, brave people in the front lines, public safety, teaching. I challenge all of us to think about how to have this comprehensive systematic change, as well as doing the more symbolic changes.”

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang expressed support for Hirsch’s remarks and told the Board, “I just want to thank Alderman Hirsch for bringing those numbers into the discussion. They are very stark and they show the reality. They make it clear that this is a real problem that should be addressed here in the city.”

Niedergang added that he thinks the same is true in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, especially in the police and fire departments.

“We’ve taken more strides in the police department in that regard than the fire department,” Niedergang said. “But these are real issues in our city, especially as our city is very different in terms of its racial composition than it was 20-30 years ago.”

The gender equity discussion arose while the Board addressed agenda items related to requesting that the administration review and update the city’s sexual harassment policy for all city staff, as well as work with the Board to implement a Code of Conduct policy and discuss training all staff, union members, and aldermen.

Additionally, a resolution was put forward That the Administration and Director of Parks and Recreation develop a financial policy for programming for persons under 18 years of age that ensures gender equity when using public funds.

Each resolution was approved.


8 Responses to “City to review and update gender equity policy”

  1. #nothappy says:

    Social engineering at its’ finest. Where are the numbers for women who have applied for these jobs and been turned down? That’s the only number that would be relevant. I would suggest that more men than women wish to be firefighters or police officers. There is also a process to be hired in those positions. Firefighting, particularly and for good reason, has a rigorous physical and mental testing phase that many men don’t pass much less women. Last week it was your title, now this. Can we move onto some of the important issues facing the city? Please?

  2. FNR says:

    Stephanie better go back and check her analysis. Police, fire and fire alarm are all civil service positions. This means a state wide test where only the top scorers are interviewed; this is followed by a physical endurance test that separates the best from the rest. Is the board considering by-passing this process in favor of gender equity? Be prepared for the city to pay tens of thousands of dollars in lawsuits. If you really want to promote gender equity train residents to take both the civil service test and the physical endurance test then maybe some equity will evolve. But for now as a resident I am for the best being hired regardless of their gender or race.

  3. Lord Tennyson says:

    If 9.5 percent of existing officers are women (having passed the aforementioned rigorous testing), but only 3.5 percent are in leadership positions, is that not disparity?

  4. Matt c says:

    Lord I think you need to look at it in terms of person years

  5. Old Taxpayer says:

    FNR is right. The person best qualified for the job is the way to go. Gender, race or whatever else should not be considered. Very simple. Percentages would not count as it would depend on who applies for the job and who is the most qualified. Not something you can out numbers on.

  6. IHAB says:

    Let’s get this straight, the only way to get hired or promoted as a police officer or firefighter is to take and be the higher scorer on a standardized state wide test. So if there is no gender equity or diversity in the departments then either they are not taking the test or are not the higher scorer. Period. To the Alderperson whose father was a firefighter, you should be ashamed of yourself. You’re father is rolling over in his grave for you to suggest bypassing qualified individuals for a lesser quilified candidate jeopardizing public safety in the process!

  7. ritepride says:

    I knew a great gentleman who served as a volunteer on the Somerville Auxiliary Fire Dept. He started in 1942 served up into the 1980s I believe. I asked him why he did not get on the paid fire dept. back in the 40’s. He old me back then the city had 22 aldermen and if you wanted to get on the FD or PD you better have 22 white envelopes with a Hundred ($100) dollar bill in each envelope if you wanted a job back then.

    In years past there were women who served in Fire Alarm and Lieutenant positions in the Fire Dept. There are many (men/women) fire fighters who had the qualifications to move on to higher rank but did not
    as by doing so they lost the function of the job that they enjoyed so much. When you move up in command on the job you can no longer be an engineer (drive/operate) the Engine, Tower/Ladder, Rescue trucks. You no longer hold the hose nozzle, operate the ladder equipment, open up walls searching for hidden fire, operate the jaws of life and other rescue equipment.

    I personally knew two firefighters who remained not only in their original titles but also in the same station on the same company as they had relatives who held positions in elected office and did not move as they did not want anyone saying that they were favored. Though you can be sure that it may have happened by some.

  8. TTT says:

    As a civil servant in public safety in Somerville I thank the Lord that this board of alderman wasn’t in place during my processes. I am now an officer and was hired and promoted on MERIT. I studied for and took the civil service tests and scored high each time. However each time there was a diverse candidate behind me on the list. The process is fair and I would hate to see it change for diversity purposes. Determination, hard work, studying (for hundreds of hours of studying) is how I was promoted. The Lord help the people of Somervile if this process is changed.

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