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Comptroller gives City a D+ on Minority and Women owned business program. City disagrees.

When women go to work, on average they don’t get paid as much as men. It’s called gender pay gap. And New York City wants to help, with a program that finances businesses owned by women and minorities. But according to a Comptroller’s report released last week the program hasn’t come close to meet its own goals.

Bianca Giacobone reports.  (0:16)


GIACOBONE: Every April, for the past 13 years, women have rallied in front of City Hall on Equal Pay Day – the day that marks how far into 2019 women have to work to make as much money as white men did during the previous year.

(tape of rally)

Union leaders, politicians and workers stands on the steps dressed in red and holding bright green balloons that symbolize dollars.

Corey Johnson is the speaker of City Council. He says Latinas have the biggest pay gap of all – for every one dollar a white man makes, they earn half of that – and they take  even longer to catch up.

COREY JOHNSON Equal Pay Day for Hispanic Women? We won’t get there until November. Until November! That is wrong. And that is racist.

GIACOBONE Fanny Mairena is is the founder of Latinas in New York,  a networking platform for Latinas in business. She used to work in tech, where she says she was consistently paid less than her male colleagues.

MAIRENA I was the only girl, especially Latino woman there.//It looks like you were being ignored and you’re not being valued… I think it’s the worst thing that happened to Latinas for years.

GIACOBONE Many other Latinas are stuck in low wage jobs.

Will McGrew is a researcher at Washington Center for Equitable Growth. He says one way to fix the problem is to encourage businesses to hire Latinas.

MCGREW: You need to take action to concretely incentivize employers to increase their representation of Latino workers at all levels, but specifically in professions and rules that are the highest paying and the most prestigious.

The City is trying to do just that.

Every year, the city government spends billions to buy everything from staplers to construction contracts. A program called Minority and Women owned Business enterprises – or M-WBE – promises a big chunk of those contracts to businesses owned by women and minorities.

The program has been around for almost 15 years but its success in being questioned.

A report released last week by the Comptroller gave the City a D+ for Fiscal Year 2018 because they say the program didn’t come close to meet its goals.

GARCIA I think we’re sort of in a place where we’re tired of that. I think women are tired of that. I think people of color are tired of that.

Wendy Garcia is the Comptroller’s Chief Diversity Officer.

She says for the program to really work, it’s going to take some administrative changes. She wants a Chief Diversity Officer for the whole city.

GARCIA  You have someone that will hold the institution accountable around equity. When you make a decision you have someone, a cop on the beat that’s asking how this impacts women and people of color.

The Mayor’s office disagrees. They say they’re on track to meet their goals. That the Comptroller’s report is miscalculated.

Magalie Austin is the Chief Diversity Officer for the City Department of Design and Construction. Rather than administrative changes, she would like to see more flexibility in the program.

AUSTIN If we could get better tools in our toolbox that gives us flexibility in terms of how we buy services. I think the city would not only meet its goals, but probably exceed its goals.

The City has a goal to award 30% of its contracts to businesses owned by women and minorities by 2021.

Bianca Giacobone, Columbia Radio News

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